Wisconsin's latest COVID surge hasn't peaked: officials

The latest surge of COVID-19 infections due to the highly contagious delta variant has not yet peaked in Wisconsin, state health officials said Wednesday.

The seven-day average of new cases as of Tuesday was 2,857, nearly double what it was two weeks ago and at a level not seen since early January before the vaccine was widely available.

"We are not at a plateau yet, we are not at a leveling off," said Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake at a news conference. "We are still seeing a concerning rate of growth."

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Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the state’s chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for communicable diseases, said the current surge is about half as bad as the worst surge in November. But he said there's no indication yet that it is leveling off.

"We have not seen a turning of the corner," Westergaard said.

The 1,085 people hospitalized as of Tuesday was down slightly from the previous three days. The seven-day average of daily deaths from COVID-19 was 11 as of Tuesday, down from the average daily high of 15 on Sept. 14 during the current surge.

Timberlake attributed the surge in cases and hospitalizations to the delta variant. Only 5% of intensive care beds and 5% of medical/surgical beds statewide are available, she said.

As of Wednesday, just over 56% of the population was fully vaccinated and nearly 64% of adults over age 18 were vaccinated.

Also on Wednesday, Fort McCoy announced that 97% of Afghan refugees being temporarily housed at the military base in western Wisconsin had been vaccinated for COVID-19 as well as measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox.

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The U.S. on Sept. 10 halted U.S.-bound flights of Afghan evacuees after discovering a few cases of measles among new arrivals in the United States, including at Fort McCoy.

The Afghan refugees at Fort McCoy, where roughly 12,700 evacuees were staying as of Wednesday, are being resettled across the country. The immigration process includes completing the required vaccinations.

More than 200 resettlement partners nationwide are working with local communities to find homes for the refugees, said Skye Justice, team lead for the Department of State for the Fort McCoy operation.

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