Two years on, the fight against COVID in Wisconsin continues

MADISON, Wis. — On January 30, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 arrived in Wisconsin, it was confirmed by experts on February 5, 2020. Two years on and the fight to end the pandemic is still ongoing.

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To date, over 1.3 million cases have been confirmed and over 11,000 people have died in Wisconsin alone according to the DHS COVID-19 dashboard. UW Health experts say the story of COVID-19 is a story of vaccines. The first vaccines were authorized in the middle of a COVID surge.

“We were coming out of a difficult surge of cases and hospitalizations,” Dr. Jeff Pothof said. “We were excited about the prospect of vaccinating the community and protecting millions from infection.”

As eligibility expanded, the number of vaccinated people began to rise and case numbers began to fall. However, the emergence of variants like delta and omicron caused cases to rise again.

“It really became a race between vaccination rates and COVID-19 variants,” Pothof said. “Every person vaccinated not only protects themselves against the virus, but they help reduce the risk of further variants emerging.”

A rise in vaccine availability also saw a rise in vaccine hesitancy and resistance.

“We saw an unprecedented level of misinformation about vaccines,” UW School of Medicine and Public Health associate professor Ajay Sethi said. “2021 showed us how difficult it can be to overcome that challenge.”

With cases still at high levels, the push for vaccinations remains at the forefront. Over 3.6 Wisconsinites have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and over 3.4 million completed a vaccine series.

“On this second anniversary of the pandemic, many people understand that vaccination will help us out of this pandemic,” Sethi said.

Data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows that unvaccinated people are hospitalized with COVID-19 10 times more often than fully vaccinated people. Unvaccinated people die of COVID-19 14 times more often than fully vaccinated people.

Public Health Madison & Dane County has led the fight against the pandemic at a local level, administering over 500,000 tests and over 116,000 vaccinations.

To date, over 113,000 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Dane County and 456 people have died. Over 450,000 Dane County residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and over 425,000 residents have completed a vaccine series.