The graphic above is a screenshot from the website Covid Act Now, an independent non-profit established a year ago to provide timely, and as accurate data as is possible on Covid activity and other metrics in every state and county in the United States and its territories. The non-profit works in partnership with a variety of state, local and federal health officials as well as with research institutes from Georgetown, Stanford and Harvard Universities. The color bar at the bottom of the graph signifies risk levels, and from left to right (green to maroon) reads: low, medium, high, very high and severe risk.
You don’t need a PhD in Epidemiology to see the predicament Wisconsin is in. We are almost entirely surrounded by states that are currently in the very high risk category: Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois. What does it mean to be in the “very high risk” category?
Michigan is currently experiencing a widespread surge with seven day average case rates approaching those seen during the previous peak of the pandemic back in early December. Metro Detroit hospitals are nearing capacity. Governor Whitmer and state health officials are pleading with Michigan school officials and residents to voluntarily suspend in-person learning, youth sports and indoor dining for at least two weeks. Younger people are driving the surge. More people under the age of 60 are being admitted to the hospital with serious illness, and physicians are seeing an uptick in a rare but dangerous Covid-19 complication among children ages 2-15 years old, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome or MIS-C. The surge is being driven by the UK B117 variant which researchers suggests is far more transmissible and deadly than the original virus. Michigan is in a tough spot.
To the west of us Twin Cities CBS affiliate WCCO states ” Minnesota Stares Down Another Covid-19 Surge”. Health officials there also state that the more transmissible and deadly B117 is driving the surge. The surge is alarming enough that University of Minnesota infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm has said it’s time to reconsider in-person learning at Minnesota schools. Osterholm told ” Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd a week ago that 749 schools in Minnesota have seen B117 activity and that the variant is infecting younger people resulting in more severe illness. While not as dire as the situation in Michigan, Minnesota is clearly in a precarious position.
In Illinois daily case rates have increased 91% since early March. In Cook County health officials are warning that the surge may lead to tightened restrictions. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has put the states re-opening plan on hold as they monitor the surge. Again, while not as dire as the situation in Michigan, Illinois is bracing for more trouble ahead.
What’s crucial to understand in all of this is that most experts agree that vaccination alone is not going to stop this surge. There has to be a return to practicing the basic public health protocols that can slow the spread of the more transmissible, more deadly B117 variant. Avoiding gatherings, social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing.
What’s equally crucial to understand is that this surge, in some form or another and without a doubt, is coming to Wisconsin. It’s all around us right now and younger, un-vaccinated people are particularly at risk. And with Governor Evers authority to declare a public health emergency recently struck down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, it falls on the Republican controlled legislature to do something. There’s an opportunity to prevent unnecessary death and suffering but the window to do so is rapidly closing. I’m talking to you Robin Vos and Devin LeMahieu. The ball is in your court. For the sake of the people of Wisconsin, don’t drop it.