Coronavirus testing up in Milwaukee County amid vaccine rollout

Milwaukee County and City of Milwaukee leaders on Tuesday, Jan. 5 said they are starting to see a concerning increase in positive COVID-19 tests following the holidays.

Officials urge people to continue taking safety precautions a little longer as they work to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Department of Public Works (DPW) employees are already at work, bringing refrigeration units to the Wisconsin Center that would be used to give the vaccine to thousands.

"Just because we are in a new year does not mean the COVID-19 virus is gone," said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley

Leaders said the positive rates and case numbers, which are creeping up again, have the new year starting off on a bit of a bad foot.

"It’s something that we have to watch. We don’t want to be in a space where we are having another spike which we typically see after holidays," said Milwaukee's Interim Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson.

In Milwaukee County, there have been 86,182 coronavirus cases and 898 deaths since the pandemic began. The good news: Testing numbers are up in Milwaukee following a lull after Thanksgiving, with 2,300 tested thus far this week.

"I’m pleased to see people are getting tested," Barrett said. "Again, if you’re showing symptoms coming out of this holiday season, please make sure that you get tested."

Local leaders attribute the increase in cases to "pandemic fatigue" with several months to go before the vaccine will be available locally to all adult residents. Jackson said it could happen as soon as May or June.

"We are going to get the vaccine into people’s arms and into the first responders as soon as possible," said Jackson. "We’re working with lots of partners that that distribution is prioritized, and fair and most effective."

Wisconsin Center

A possible mass vaccine rollout is being planned now at the Wisconsin Center, according to Barrett, who is asking the state for at least 800 more vaccines to be sent to Milwaukee's health care workers by the end of the week.

"I feel a sense of urgency to vaccinate our residents," said Barrett.

City and county leaders are also preparing to distribute the vaccine by training more health care workers and firefighters to administer the shot to thousands once it arrives.

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