Milwaukee sees 'extreme' COVID transmission; delta variant surges

The delta COVID-19 variant continues to spread in Wisconsin, causing an increase in hospitalizations and putting Milwaukee into the "extreme transmission" category.

Amid concerns about breakthrough cases and the virus spreading to children, who are not yet vaccinated, health officials warn: We aren't out of the pandemic yet.

"The state of Wisconsin has seen a fourfold increase in hospitalizations in the last four weeks," said Dr. Ben Weston with the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management. "That’s worth repeating: We have four times as many people hospitalized with COVID in Wisconsin as we did one month ago – from 74 one month ago to 310 today."

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The delta variant is being blamed for the surge in infections.

"In the city of Milwaukee, our disease burden jumped from 75.7 cases per 100,000 last week to 193.2 this week putting us in the extreme transmission category," Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said.

Statewide, 491 cases have been linked to Deer District gatherings. While officials say the number is insignificant, it does raise concerns about the Wisconsin State Fair.

"Anytime there is a large gathering we’re going to see the virus spread; that number is from the entire month of July," said Johnson. "It’s not linked directly to one day, the final game. It’s the entire course of the month of July.  We are still collecting data and the numbers will likely grow."

Discussions continue to take place about possibly reinstating the city's mask mandate, as well as a possible vaccine requirement for city workers.

"The way out of this pandemic is through vaccines. Every person who is not vaccinated is a potential host for another variant," Johnson said.

Health officials said just over half of Milwaukee residents ages 16 and older are fully vaccinated. It has reason only 0.8% since hitting the 50% threshold a week and a half ago.

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