COVID-19 Cases Climb, Mostly among the Unvaccinated

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise steadily in Door County and throughout Wisconsin, the virus continues to thrive most among the unvaccinated. 

Dr. James Heise of Door County Medical Center, during an Aug. 25 briefing with doctors and public-health professionals, said the outlook for the disease is simple: “You’re either going to get vaccinated, or you’re going to get sick.”

Heise said 97% of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are unvaccinated individuals. Though some vaccinated individuals are testing positive for COVID-19, very few have experienced serious illness. The rate of hospitalization per 100,000 unvaccinated individuals is 18.2 per 100,000, which is nearly four times the rate for those who have received the vaccine (4.9 per 100,000). 

In Door County, 65 people tested positive for COVID-19 during the week ending Sept. 7 – up from 49 the week before. There were no new hospitalizations reported Sept. 7. On Sept. 9, the county reported one new death and two new hospitalizations.

Wisconsin reported fewer than 100 cases of COVID-19 per day through most of June, before cases began ticking upward in July. By the end of August, the state was reporting more than 1,500 cases per day: the most since January and more than at the same time in 2020. 

The seven-day average of hospitalizations statewide was 867 on Aug. 31 – the most since Jan. 21 – but far below the peak of 2,155 reached Nov. 21, 2020.

But overall hospitalizations not related to COVID-19 have also rebounded, resulting in 88.5% of hospital beds and 91.6% of ICU beds in Wisconsin now full, which is the highest since the pandemic began. Nearly 55% of the state’s hospitals are at peak ICU capacity. That’s in part because many people have returned to normal socializing, traveling and indoor activities, leading to the spread of other illnesses that weren’t circulating as much when people were staying home or social distancing.

Hospitals are also performing more elective surgeries and procedures than they were at the peak of the pandemic. As a result, many hospitals in northeast Wisconsin are operating at full capacity several days a week, which means that a further surge of hospitalizations for COVID-19 among unvaccinated individuals could leave other patients searching for beds. 

Amid urging from medical and public-health professionals for people to wear masks in public settings, Heise continued to express frustration with “armchair quarterbacks” who argue that masks don’t work or cause harm. 

“There’s overwhelming data that shows that, in fact, [mask wearing] does work to protect people,” Heise said. “In 20 years practicing medicine, I don’t ever recall a surgeon passing out in the operating room because of a mask.”

Vaccinations on the Rise

Vaccinations continue to rise slightly in Wisconsin. Last week, 70,532 doses were administered – the most since the week of June 13. To date, 55% of all residents and 66% of those over age 18 have received at least one dose of the vaccine. In Door County, those numbers are 70% and 80%, a rate topped only by Dane County.

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