On November 10, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers offered this chilling forecast from the University of Washington in a statewide speech: "The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates 5,000 Wisconsinites could be lost to COVID-19 by January 1st, if no further actions are taken to get this virus under control.”
At the time, Wisconsin had seen 2,395 deaths. That number officially doubled by Wednesday of this week, when the state reported 35 deaths for a new total of 4,818.
So, barring a huge death toll Thursday, 5,000 won't be reached by January 1.
Whether that's due to great health care, luck, further precautions taken by the state and local governments and individuals, other factors, or some combination is hard to say. The Evers administration did not respond to WUWM’s request for comment.
Whatever the reason the estimate was a bit off, local health officials are aware of the numbers. City of Racine Health Administrator Dottie-Kay Bowersox says there has been an upsurge in deaths there during the last month and a half. Eighty-seven Racine residents have now died of COVID-19. But Bowersox says she is glad that the virus caseload in the city is back close to Racine's percentage of the county's population.
"We have one hospital system within the city of Racine, with one hospital emergency room. So, we need to be very concerned we don't overrun that system, and that we have services for other diseases,” Bowersox told WUWM.
Bowersox says relative easing of COVID cases the last few weeks also means the police, fire, and public health departments can focus more on their usual services.
She says health care workers in Racine have started to receive the virus vaccine and nursing home residents could start to receive their shots any day now. But she warns the vaccine supply is limited and not everyone in those groups will get immunized right away.
"At the same point, with that, when you take a look at mass vaccinations sites for the general population, we're probably taking later this summer/early this fall before that's going to happen,” Bowersox cautions.
So, Bowersox says it's imperative for people to keep wearing masks, social distance and take other steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
For Racine and other communities, the state is expected to have more to say about vaccine distribution sometime next week. By then, the state will likely report a Wisconsin death toll of more than 5,000.