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New COVID-19 cases hit lowest point since Christmas as state marks 2 years of pandemic

(NBC15)
Published: Jan. 31, 2022 at 2:48 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 31, 2022 at 6:11 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Local health officials are marking two years since the COVID-19 pandemic reached Dane Co. – and, by extension, Wisconsin. In addition to being the county’s first case, that positive test, which was detected on Jan. 30, 2020, was the first one confirmed in the state and just the 12th in the entire country, UW Health noted.

It came so early in the pandemic that doctors for UW Health needed to send its sample out-of-state to get the test performed, the hospital recounted in a statement about the anniversary. That’s why it took several more days, until Feb. 5, before health officials were sure and the confirmed case was made public.

Since that first positive test was recorded, more than 11,000 people have died from COVID-19 or complications related to the virus, the Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services reports. State officials have tallied over 1.3 million positive tests, a number that has surged recently as case counts reached unprecedented levels in the state, and reported that, at least, 60,000 admittances into Wisconsin hospitals were related to the virus. The daily report to end January that was released Monday afternoon showed more people tested positive for COVID-19 this month than any of the other 23 that came before.

In contract, the daily total reported Monday (2,491) is the lowest since Christmas Day and dropped the seven-day rolling average to the lowest point of the year. (more details on Monday’s report below)

Public Health Madison & Dane Co. released a brief video Monday morning commemorating two-years of the virus wreaking havoc on the community and thrusting them into forefront of public discourse. “We are taking this opportunity to reflect on and appreciate all of the hard work by our staffers in testing, vaccination, contact tracing, data and communications,” the agency said. In it, the agency celebrated the 450 team members, both full-time and limited term, who have worked for the agency battling to contain the pandemic.

PHMDC reports county health officials themselves recorded over a half-million tests given, raced to conduct approximately 92,000 contact investigations, and helped deliver more than 116,000 vaccinations. Those numbers come in addition to all of the tests and vaccinations provided by other health agencies, hospitals, and businesses.

UW HEALTH MARKS 2 YEARS WITH VACCINE REMINDER

At the time of that first case, the world was less than a year away from the first COVID-19 vaccine and, in its statement on Monday, UW Health emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated. Its Chief Quality Officer Dr. Jeffrey Pothof recalled how, at the time that first vaccine was released, the state was gripped the highest case counts it would see until this current surge began last month and its deadliest months to date.

“We were coming out of a difficult surge of cases and hospitalizations,” he said. “And we were excited about the prospect of vaccinating the community and protecting millions from infection, hospitalization and worse.”

UW Health pointed out how successful the vaccines have been so far, a sentiment supported by DHS data on post-vaccination illness. In its latest mid-month report, the state agency found that individuals who are not fully vaccinated were 14 times more likely to die after contracting the virus than their counterparts. Compounding that statistic was that the unvaccinated individuals were also 2.7 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19. PHMDC added its own statistics, based on Dane Co. data, that showed how large the gaps can get when boosters are factored in. Its figures show people who are not fully vaccinated are 57 time more likely to end up in the hospital and 58 times more likely to end up dead from the virus than those who went for their extra shot.

However, as UW Health points out, the vaccination race isn’t done. In the two years since that first case, variants have emerged, forcing vaccine makers to adapt. The past few months have seen both the Delta and Omicron versions reign as the dominant strand in Wisconsin.

“It really became a race between vaccination rates and COVID-19 variants,” Pothof said. “Every person vaccinated not only protects themselves against the virus, but they help reduce the risk of further variants emerging. The omicron surge demonstrates the importance of vaccinations winning that race against the variants as the pandemic enters its third year.”

DHS data show that the percentage of those who completed their main vaccine sequence, which does not include boosters or other additional shots, stands just below 60 percent. The vaccination rates in the state have slowed as well, with the week of Jan. 16 showing the fewest number of vaccine doses delivered in more than three months. That led to UW School of Medicine and Public Health’s Ajay Sethi to express concern over the level of vaccine resistance last year, saying, “We saw an unprecedented level of misinformation about vaccines and other measures people can use to protect themselves against COVID-19. And 2021 showed us how difficult it can be to overcome that challenge.”

The Dept. of Health Services daily report for Monday, Jan. 31, 2022.
The Dept. of Health Services daily report for Monday, Jan. 31, 2022.(Dept. of Health Services)

MONDAY’S COVID-19 REPORT

With the latest weekly update not due until Wednesday, the state of Wisconsin entered its second year of the pandemic with every single county considered to have Critically High COVID-19 case activity. On Monday, the Dept. of Health Services reported the seven-day rolling average for new, confirmed COVID-19 cases did slip below 6,000 cases per day – to 5,926 – for the first time since passing that threshold on New Year’s Eve.

The numbers recorded over the weekend also pushed the total number of confirmed cases to 1,333,782 in the two years since the pandemic reached Wisconsin. The state had just crossed one million cases at the beginning of the year, which puts the January total for new cases slightly above the 330,000-point.

The rolling average for deaths remains at the top of the 20-30 per day zone where it has stood since the beginning December, with 29 deaths reported per day over the past week. In all, DHS figures show 11,134 people have died from COVID-19 or complications related to the virus in Wisconsin, which breaks down to approximately 15.25 per day.

Unlike, new cases, however, the biggest spike of deaths did not come during the most recent surge. Rather, it came during first major spike, in Nov. and Dec. of 2020, when approximately 3,400 were recorded during that two-month span.

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