Health leader says herd immunity is possible by July in Wisconsin if people keep getting vaccinated – Journal Times

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MADISON — There will be enough coronavirus vaccine in Wisconsin by the end of June to immunize 80% of those age 16 and over in the state, hitting a key target to achieve herd immunity for COVID-19, a top state health official said Thursday.

Julie Willems Van Dijk, DHS Deputy Secretary

Willems Van Dijk

“Wouldn’t that be a wonderful 4th of July celebration, to hit 80% community immunity in the State of Wisconsin?” said Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has said the nation must achieve a vaccination rate of about 80% to reach “herd immunity.” Other health experts have said “herd immunity” won’t be reached until 90% of the population is vaccinated.

As of Thursday, more than 23% of Wisconsin residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine and more than 13%, about 761,000 people, were fully vaccinated, according to the health department.

On Monday[2], more than 2 million people ages 16 to 64 with any of a broad array of preexisting conditions — including being overweight, having high blood pressure or moderate asthma — will become eligible. Everyone over age 65, and all frontline health care workers, grocery store workers and restaurant employees are already eligible.

Everyone in Wisconsin will be eligible “no later” than May 1, Willems Van Dijk said.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a free-for-all,” she said. “We’re getting much closer to being able to have (vaccine) supply to open to everyone.”

Senator wants COVID numbers audited

Wisconsin is “woefully behind” in cleaning up COVID-19 data and a renewed emphasis it has placed on making sure its case counts are more accurate has resulted in swings in previously reported numbers, state health officials said Wednesday.

There’s a concern the public won’t understand why the numbers are changing, state Department of Health Services officials said, even though they said it’s part of a routine process that fell behind in the fall as COVID-19 cases were spiking.

“I think it’s fair to say we’re woefully behind in some of that cleanup work,” Willems Van Dijk said.

Traci DeSalvo, acting director for the Department of Health Services' Bureau of Communicable Diseases


The verification work has ramped up the past two weeks, resulting in questions about why some numbers are changing, she said.

The swings can be particularly noticeable now that case counts are lower, said Traci DeSalvo, director of the department’s Bureau of Communicable Diseases. The swings are particularly noticeable at the county level, Willems Van Dijk said.

Cases that were initially listed as being positive based on a rapid antigen test but were later determined to be negative based on the more accurate PCR test are being corrected, Willems Van Dijk said. Over the past several weeks, about 3,000 confirmed cases were updated or corrected to probable and about 800 non-confirmed cases were confirmed, resulting in about 2,200 fewer confirmed cases, the health department said.

Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills. (copy)


Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling called on the leaders of the Legislature’s joint audit committee to investigate how DHS has handled COVID-19 data.

“The public deserves to know the truth about why DHS undercounted deaths in long-term care facilities and how this affected the Department and Governor Evers’ COVID-19 response,” Darling said in a statement.

The accuracy of COVID-19 data has been an issue in many states, particularly among critics of efforts earlier in the pandemic to close businesses and take other mitigation steps to slow the spread of the virus. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is under federal investigation after it underreported deaths in nursing homes following his decision to open them to recovering COVID-19 patients.

Group home numbers revised

Health officials said Thursday they do not anticipate being able to determine in what type of group housing more than 1,700 people who died from COVID-19 resided, even as the state recently added nearly 1,000 deaths from unknown to long-term care facilities.

State health officials in recent weeks[3] have been revising and updating the data, including matching the addresses of known long-term care facilities with those who have died. That resulted in about 1,000 people who died while residing in a long-term care facility being moved from the unknown category.

The percentage of unknown deaths in group housing settings dropped from 46% to 26%, with the deaths in long-term care facilities increasing from 26% to 45%. On Thursday, the state reported at least 2,935 COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities. That’s up from 1,956 reported earlier this month. There were 1,719 deaths in the unknown category for group homes.

“At this time, I don’t anticipate it will be further reduced unless we come up with another creative idea about how to match some other kind of housing,” Willems Van Dijk said.

Long-term care facilities include nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Other group housing facilities include prisons, homeless shelters, dormitories, and group homes.(tncms-asset)41e83f32-7ea8-11eb-bbd8-00163ec2aa77[4](/tncms-asset)


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