Vaccine clinic (copy)

Dane County’s case activity has been increasing since late March, but health officials say it’s not a cause for alarm.

Dane County is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, pushing the county into medium levels of transmission, according to new Centers for Disease Control data.

Dane County’s case activity has been increasing since late March, according to Public Health Madison & Dane County, with a current seven-day average of 159 cases per day. The county had 648 new cases since Friday, data from PHMDC show.

However, it’s not cause for panic, director Janel Heinrich said in a statement, especially given the county’s high vaccination rate.

“While this increase is a cause of concern and caution, it is not a cause for alarm,” Heinrich said. “We have always been clear that this pandemic is not over — we expect to see peaks and valleys in the number of cases in our community. Following these risk levels helps people make informed decisions and take proactive steps to stay healthy.”

Dane County remains the most vaccinated in the state, with 83% of residents having received one dose and about 79% of county residents with a completed vaccine series, according to Monday data from the state Department of Health. The statewide average for one dose is 63%.

About 48% of residents in the county have gotten a booster dose.

The vaccines have made a major difference in how COVID affects the county, especially in hospitals.

Dane County’s high vaccination status, available treatment options, and immunity following the Omicron surge in January means that hospitalizations and hospital bed capacity have not increased with cases.

In the last two weeks, Dane County hospitals averaged 29 people hospitalized with COVID each day, the lowest levels since July 2021.  

“That's a good indication that we may be having a bit of an uptick in cases but it's not translating into that severe illness like it has in the past,” Morgan Finke, a spokesperson for PHMDC, told the Cap Times. “Our high vaccination rate is helping us keep that low, so that's really, really the biggest thing anybody can do right now as we get into this medium category — get your initial vaccine (and) get that booster and that second booster.”

PHMDC noted that percent positivity is increasing and the health department is likely not capturing all new cases due to the popularity of home COVID tests and people testing less overall.

Finke said the spike in cases doesn’t change too much for PHMDC, which will continue to offer vaccines, testing services and monitor data. And while some other cities, like Philadelphia, have reinstated their mask mandates, Finke said Dane County is “not in a place where that's on the table right now.”

The county's mask mandate expired March 1, marking a turning point in Dane County's COVID-19 pandemic response.

“We're really hoping that we don't get there,” Finke said. 

Initial series, boosters and second boosters are widely available to those who are eligible at Public Health clinic locations, mobile clinics, local pharmacies and health care providers.

“Our top priority remains focused on minimizing the number of tragic outcomes due to COVID-19, including hospitalizations and deaths. We do that by staying up to date on our vaccinations,” Heinrich said in a statement. “So if you are among the 20% of our population currently eligible for boosters but have not gotten them, now is the time to get up to date.”

PHMDC issued other recommendations now that the county is designated a medium-level transmission area:

  • Those immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease should talk to their health care provider about whether or not to wear a mask in public
  • If residents live with someone at high risk, or come in contact with people who are high risk, consider wearing a mask while indoors with them or using a home test before coming in contact with them
  • Those with symptoms or who were exposed should get tested

Finke understands some in the community might be worried about new cases, but she reassured that this is part of learning to live with COVID-19.

“We're learning how to coexist with the virus and moving forward into what what the future looks like,” she said. “Yes, right now we are seeing this higher number of cases. We encourage folks to have those conversations and think about what works best for them, and reemphasizing that vaccines continue to be our best tool to reduce severe illness.”

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