COVID cases continue rising in Wisconsin as known active variants double in past week

MADISON, Wis. — Counties across Wisconsin are sustaining a high level of COVID activity, after activity was trending downward earlier in the spring.

A map tracking COVID activity from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services showed just four counties with medium activity, down from more than 20 with low to medium activity in mid to late March. Plus, one county has risen back to a very high level, after weeks with none in the deepest blue range.

The rising activity includes sequenced variants doubling from last week, with the UK and a California strain dominating the nearly-600 active variant case count.

“That’s very likely part of the explanation of why cases are increasing in Wisconsin,” DHS chief medical officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard said in a press briefing Tuesday. “We are seeing more cases in younger people as a proportion of all of our cases.”

A growing portion of positive cases available for lab sequencing are highly transmissible variants, Dr. Westergaard explained. In Michigan, he noted, a rise in sequenced variants preceded the spike in cases.

In Dane County, health officials attribute some of that spread to variants as well, especially the UK variant which is now seen as potentially the dominant COVID strain.

“We love watching the vaccination numbers keep going up,” Katarina Grande, team data lead at Public Health Madison and Dane County, said. “We don’t love as much when we see case numbers going up.”

Cases are rising among the younger population, at youth sporting events, and in outlying communities around Madison, according to the latest weekly data highlights from PHMDC. But there’s also good news, Grande noted.

“We hit another milestone this week, where we have not seen a single case associated with a longterm care facility in a cluster,” she said. “That hasn’t happened in a really long time.”