Cases of COVID-19 have skyrocketed in Wisconsin.
Last week, the state recorded more new cases than all of Germany, a country that's currently experiencing a resurgence of the disease (Germany has a population of 83.1 million compared to Wisconsin's 5.8 million). Wisconsin has the third-highest number of new cases in the country, behind only California (population of 39.5 million) and Texas (population of 28.9 million)
It’s a shocking development for a state that had relatively few cases earlier on in the pandemic. And as the Republican Legislature continues to fight against Gov. Tony Evers' mask mandate, health professionals are urging residents to take extra precautions at this time of increased danger.
Dr. Laura Cassidy is one of those health professionals. She’s the director of epidemiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and she says this uptick in cases in worrying. She advises that people continue to take precautions like wearing a mask and remaining socially distanced from people since these are two proven ways to avoid infection.
"We do know that [COVID-19 is] a respiratory virus and so droplets come out of our nose and mouth when we sneeze, cough, shout, sing, talk. And so they come out and then they can go through the air and they can enter another person through their eyes, nose or mouth. And so that's why maintaining physical distance, for one thing, is important — but also wearing a face covering will prevent that spread," she explains.
It's hard to pinpoint the exact cause of Wisconsin's uptick in cases, but it may be due in part to young people in college. Many of the outbreaks have been concentrated in areas of the state where there are colleges and universities that returned to school around the time infections began to rise. Cassidy says college-aged adults, those in their late teens and early 20s, can easily spread the disease because they're less likely to be seriously ill and more likely to be in social situations on campus where distancing is difficult.
"There’s a large number of asymptomatic people in that age group who may not know they have it, and then you’re bringing them together in a space where they interact. And so whether it’s the dorms or living spaces, they’re not designed to keep people away from each other," says Cassidy.