‘We are concerned’: State health officials warn of new COVID cases after Bucks crowds

MADISON, Wis. — State health officials are warning of increased spread of COVID-19, specifically the more seriously and easily transmissible Delta variant, amid hundreds of thousands gathering in Milwaukee for the Bucks championship parade celebrations.

83% of new sequenced cases in the state are the Delta variant, Department of Health Services deputy secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said, with the 7-day average now almost 3 times higher than it was two weeks ago.

“We are concerned,” Van Dijk said of the parade crowds, which Milwaukee officials said were expected to reach half a million. “Both that combination of likely unvaccinated people without masks in those close settings, the fact that people were really boisterous and yelling loud which is a great way to spread infection, the presence of the Delta variant in our state–I anticipate we’ll see additional cases as a result of those gatherings.”

Just over half the state has had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with the other half still unvaccinated. Van Dijk said she expected that percentage would be replicated in the Milwaukee crowds as well, where few attendees were masked.

“What we know is this variant is extremely infectious,” Dijk noted. “It will spread most effectively to those that are not vaccinated, and more infected people means we will see more hospitalizations and more deaths.”

The parade started at 11 a.m. and ended at the Deer District, where state officials, Bucks executives, and players gave speeches commemorating the NBA Finals win–their first since 1971. It’s one of the biggest events the city has ever hosted, officials said Wednesday.