Covid infections caused by variants growing in Wisconsin, more children getting sick

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s seven-day average of new COVID cases is rising and more cases are being linked to virus variants.

The CDC has identified five variants that are more contagious than the original strain.

“All five of these strains are currently in Wisconsin, and the proportion of the Wisconsin infections that’s caused by the variants of concern is growing week by week,” said DHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard.

The variants need less interaction to infect someone, making the virus easier to get.

Earlier this week, public health officials reported a large outbreak of the UK variant at a Dane County childcare center. Dozens of people were infected, including children.

“You look at place like Michigan and other places across the country where you’re seeing more variant spread, we’re hearing anecdotally more stories about younger, healthier people being hospitalized and younger transmission.” said Dr. Matt Anderson at UW Health.

He said Dane County’s COVID data shows “upticks in those teens and preteens in ways that we hadn’t seen previously.”

Dr. Anderson said people who have been vaccinated should feel confident that they are protected from serious reactions to the variants.

Dane County has seen a more than 35% increase in cases over the last two weeks. With these rising numbers, the concern is that there’s more opportunity for people who aren’t vaccinated to come into contact with a variant strain.

Even with almost half of Dane County vaccinated, that means more than half of the population can still get and spread the variants, including kids who can’t get vaccinated yet.

Doctors say the best way to protect the un-vaccinated and stop the spread is by wearing a mask and social distancing.

With almost 80% of Wisconsinites 65 and older and more than 90% of people 65 and older in Dane County vaccinated, the hope is that if these variants cause another wave, it would be less deadly than the ones before.

If you’re 16 or older, doctors say you should be persistent and find a vaccine.

Pfizer has asked the FDA to approve its vaccine for teens age 12-15. That approval could come in the next few months. For younger children, Dr. Anderson expects an approval for them could take longer. He said we might see them become eligible near the end of 2021.