‘New phase of pandemic’ encouraging but Spring Break travel next hurdle

MADISON, Wis. – As Covid-19 cases continue to drop across the state, local health experts said one thing they’ll be watching closely is the impact Spring Break travelers could have on the declining numbers.

According to officials from Public Health Madison and Dane County since mid January, Covid-related hospitalizations, and positive tests have reached the lowest levels seen since August of 2021.

PHMDC Communications Coordinator Morgan Finke said while it’s too soon to make the move from pandemic to endemic there is still reason to celebrate.

“We are at a turning point,” she said. “We are at a new phase of the pandemic.”

Local health officials also said the decline in cases has been a tremendous help to the healthcare industry, no longer overwhelmed with Covid-related hospitalizations.

“Our healthcare workers really have needed a break,” said SSM Health’s Vice President of Ambulatory Service Dr. David Ottenbaker. “We’re starting to catch our breath and starting to look forward to the new normal.”

But Ottenbaker also said we aren’t out of the woods yet, not sure what an increase in travel–with Spring break on the horizon–will bring.

“The journey in front of us would be that, are there variants out there that might happen in other parts of the world that slip through our defenses that we have so far? Is that a possibility?” He said. “Absolutely.”

Ottenbaker and area doctors are still encouraging masking in higher Covid risk situations, asking people to conduct their own risk assessment and decide for themselves if they should wear a mask–mandate or not. 

He also said though the future is uncertain, health experts are still planning for it; he said researchers are working on a potential fall vaccine.

Health officials said in order to help prevent future variants it’s even more important to stay up to date with vaccine doses.