Wisconsin nursing homes see a 97% drop in COVID-19 cases since the first week of vaccinations

Pius Xi Catholic High School English teacher Becky Foster gets the first dosage of her COVID-19 vaccine from pharmacist Marwa Bakr on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, at Infinity Pharmacy at 2700 S. 60th St. in Milwaukee. “I’m super excited and optimistic that things can get back to normal next year,” she said. She said the school where she has taught for six years has been extremely safe with its in-person teaching all year and has even reduced the number of students attending, but she said getting the shot makes her feel safe. Infinity Pharmacy reached out to educators about receiving the vaccines at its site.

New coronavirus cases in Wisconsin nursing homes have taken a nose-dive since the first week of vaccinations and were in the single digits in the latest week reported to the federal government.

In the week from Feb. 15 to 21, only eight nursing home residents tested positive for COVID-19, according to the latest data reported by Wisconsin nursing homes to the federal government.

Nursing home cases have been on the decline since mid-November when cases peaked following a deadly surge of COVID-19 statewide.

But the weekly rate of cases has continued to plummet since a vaccine became available to nursing home residents, falling 97% from late December through the third week of February.

The first nursing home inoculations in Wisconsin took place Dec. 28, and in that week, Wisconsin homes reported 254 residents had contracted COVID-19. That was down from a high of 854 new cases the week of Nov. 9 to 15.

But now, nursing home cases are at their lowest level since May, when the federal government began requiring nursing homes to report COVID-19 cases each week, according to the data.

Nursing home deaths have also declined to their lowest levels since the early fall. In the latest week, nursing homes reported that 11 residents had died with COVID-19, down from a peak of 169 deaths in a week in November.

It is unclear how much of the decline can be linked to the vaccine, since it started before a vaccine became available. But the dramatic drop in cases at the state’s nursing homes, where at least 1,760 residents have died, increases optimism about the promise of the vaccine.

An analysis by the research arm of the American Health Care Association found that new cases dropped at a faster rate in nursing homes that had received vaccine than in ones that hadn’t. The analysis compared 797 homes that had vaccinated residents and staff in late December with more than 1,700 homes in the same counties that had not vaccinated.

Along with nurses, doctors and other health workers, residents and staff of nursing homes were the first Wisconsinites to get vaccinated. Most nursing home residents have now received both doses of the vaccine.

For people wanting help with vaccine-related questions, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has launched a toll-free telephone hotline: 844-684-1064.

Track COVID-19 in Wisconsin:  See the latest data on cases and the vaccine rollout

How to interpret COVID-19 data:  What experts say about positive cases, deaths and hospitalizations

New cases reported: 677

New deaths reported: 12

Number hospitalized: 262 (intensive care: 67); down 332 patients from one month ago

Seven-day average of daily cases: 522 (down 707 cases from one month ago)

Seven-day average of daily deaths: 11 (down 15 from one month ago)

Seven-day average positivity rate — as a share of all tests given: 2.3%

Total cases since the start of pandemic: 565,808 (7,294 active cases)

Total deaths: 6,470

Vaccines

Total doses administered: 1,568,329

Wisconsin residents with at least one dose: 986,387 (16.9% of the population)

Residents with both doses: 548,343 (9.4% of the population)

Residents 65 and older with at least one dose: 592,772 (58.3% of 65+ population)

More:Where can you get the vaccine in Wisconsin? Here are the different places where vaccinations may be available

More:More COVID-19 variants emerge closer to home: What to know about the ones discovered in Brazil, New York, California

Milwaukee focusing on ZIP codes with high Black, Latinx population for vaccine

Milwaukee County on Thursday launched a program to focus on vaccinating people who live in certain ZIP codes on the city’s north and south sides, in an effort to open access to the vaccine to more Black and Latinx people.

The program will first focus on the 53206 ZIP code on the city’s north side and the 53204 ZIP code south of downtown.

The vaccinations will take place at the Kosciuszko Community Center, 2201 S. 7th St., Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said Thursday. 

Vaccines will be given by appointment to people who live in those ZIP codes and are at least 65 years old. Those who are eligible can register at CovidMKE.com.

The plan is to expand the program to more ZIP codes, he said.

The county will be able to vaccinate 1,000 people per week through the program.

Early on, the north and south sides of Milwaukee emerged as epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic — with Black and brown communities disproportionately affected.

But many of the ZIP codes hardest hit by the disease when the pandemic reached Wisconsin last year have lagged when it comes to shots in arms.

For people who are homebound, a home vaccination program is also available.

Those seeking vaccinations in their homes should call 414-999-1099 and leave a message with their information, said Ericka Sinclair, founder and CEO of Health Connections, Inc. and vice president of the City of Milwaukee Board of Health.