Coronavirus cases on uptick as state announces more than 110,000 vaccine doses administered

A driver is tested for COVID-19 at a mobile testing unit at Barack Obama School in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

In the midst of the fourth week of vaccine rollout, the state health department confirmed 3,791 new cases of the coronavirus and 40 new deaths Thursday, bringing Wisconsin to close to half a million cases and over 5,000 deaths.

Meanwhile, at a news briefing, Wisconsin Department of Health Services officials announced the state had sharply ramped up its progress on vaccines after the holidays, with 110,201 doses of vaccine administered as of Thursday. 

Of those, nearly 5,000 were second doses, meaning that those people are now fully immunized. 

As of Tuesday, the state had approved 1,066 organizations to act as vaccinators, DHS said, up from 108 in mid-December. 

“Many of you are frustrated and feel that vaccine rollout is taking too long,” said DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk. “We hear you and we want to reassure you, everyone in Wisconsin who wants a vaccine will be able to get the vaccine, but it will take some time.” 

Health officials are racing to vaccinate people as COVID-19 cases appear to tick upward. 

After falling steadily from mid-November to late December, the number of new daily cases in Wisconsin began accelerating again over the past two weeks. Over the past week, Wisconsin has added more than 17,000 COVID-19 cases, up more than 2,700 from the previous week.

The percentage of tests coming back positive is also rising, state health department data show. 

The growth appears part of a national rise. Across the U.S., new daily coronavirus cases have been growing since late December as public health officials race to vaccinate health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. 

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Some Wisconsin health care professionals and long-term care facility administrators have criticized state health officials for lack of communication about the vaccine rollout, with confusion about who qualifies for the first phase of the process.  

Based on nationwide data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which lags behind DHS data — Wisconsin ranks 10th out of 12 Midwestern states in terms of how much of the population has been vaccinated. Approximately 1.4% of residents have received a dose as of Thursday, according to the CDC. 

At the news briefing Thursday, state health officials acknowledged that the state needs to pick up the pace but urged members of the public to have patience, noting that they are constrained by how much supply of vaccine they receive each week from the federal government. 

“This is the startup phase of this effort,” Willems Van Dijk said.

“In order for us to get to herd immunity … you’re absolutely right, we’re going to have to increase the pace of this. And that’s going to take time.” 

The state health department also announced that assisted living facilities will start receiving vaccines the week of Jan. 25. 

New cases reported: 3,791

New deaths reported: 40

Number hospitalized: 1,128

Seven-day average positivity rate: 34.7%

Total cases since the start of pandemic: 498,538

Total deaths: 5,079

Total vaccine doses administered: 110,201