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There’s a new COVID-19 mutation in Wisconsin

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 2:28 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2021 at 4:10 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - The delta variant of the COVID-19 virus continues to have a stranglehold on Wisconsin’s coronavirus cases, but there’s a new weed in the garden. Out of the 180 random samples from the week of August 23 tested by the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, there was one case of the mu variant, or 0.56% of the samples tested from that week.

The mu variant was first identified in Colombia in January, where it was eventually responsible for almost 40% of new coronavirus cases, and outbreaks of this variant were detected in South America and Europe. It’s also been seen in other states. The World Health Organization added mu to its list of Variants of Interest two weeks ago, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention merely has it on its radar.

There are concerns the mu variant is resistant to vaccines and immunity derived from a prior COVID-19 infection, but health experts say more real-world data is needed. It’s been around for 9 months but has not spread like the wildfire that is the delta variant.

The delta mutation has been the dominant strain of coronavirus in Wisconsin for 11 weeks. It’s highly contagious and creates a high viral load in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people -- the difference is how effectively their bodies fight the COVID-19 disease. As we reported this week, people who aren’t fully vaccinated were 9 times more likely to occupy a hospital bed and 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 in August. The vaccinated are far more likely to have mild or no symptoms.

Cases, deaths and hospitalizations

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says there were 21 more COVID-19 deaths reported in the past day, all of them within the past 30 days. These include deaths in Dodge, Fond du Lac and Waupaca counties. The state is still averaging 13 deaths per day over the last week, by the DHS’s calculations. A total 7,827 people have died from COVID-19 in Wisconsin since the pandemic began.

Testing confirmed more than 3,000 new cases for a third day in a row. The DHS says there were 3,172 new cases, pulling the 7-day average up to 2,227 cases per day. It’s the highest daily average since mid-January, but you have to go back to mid-December to find three straight days with over 3,000 new cases. Four counties in WBAY’s viewing area -- Brown, Fond du Lac, Outagamie and Winnebago -- reported more than 100 new cases Friday. The state says an average 7.4% of all coronavirus tests in the past week came back positive. Wisconsin is less than 6,300 from a milestone 700,000 total COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

New hospitalizations declined after days of triple digits. State numbers show 89 COVID-19 patients were admitted in the past 24-hour period. As of Friday, there were 1,071 people being treated for COVID-19 in Wisconsin’s hospitals, with 333 of them in intensive care, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA). That’s a net gain of 11 patients in ICU and 5 patients overall after taking transfers, discharges and deaths into account. The 10 hospitals in the 7-county Northeast region had 117 patients, including 31 in ICU -- 2 fewer people in ICU and 8 fewer overall since Thursday. The 13 hospitals in the 8-county Fox Valley region were treating 89 COVID-19 patients, with 17 in ICU -- 1 fewer ICU patient and 2 fewer patients overall.

The DHS website cautions that it might be under-reporting data on cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. It says a system performance issue is causing a lag in processing the data. The issue is being worked on.

Vaccinations

Fifty-six percent of Wisconsinites have started getting vaccinated against COVID-19, including 2 out of 3 adults (67.0%). That’s 3,262,657 people.

Wisconsin reached 52.8% of the entire population finishing their vaccination series, which includes 63.4% of adults (66.8% of women, 59.3% of men). That’s 3,071,904 people.

Wisconsinites getting COVID-19 vaccine, by age group (and change since last report)

  • 12-15: 45.0% received vaccine (+0.2)/39.3% fully vaccinated (+0.3)
  • 16-17: 50.8% received vaccine (+0.2)/45.8% fully vaccinated (+0.1)
  • 18-24: 50.7% received vaccine (+0.2)/45.5% fully vaccinated (+0.2)
  • 25-34: 54.9% received vaccine (+0.1)/50.2% fully vaccinated (+0.2)
  • 35-44: 62.6% received vaccine (+0.1)/58.2% fully vaccinated (+0.1)
  • 45-54: 64.0% received vaccine (+0.1)/60.3% fully vaccinated (+0.1)
  • 55-64: 72.9% received vaccine (+0.0)/69.9% fully vaccinated (+0.0)
  • 65 and up: 85.2% received vaccine (+0.0)/83.2% fully vaccinated (+0.0)

Menominee County reached 60% of its population getting fully vaccinated. It’s the fourth county in Wisconsin to pass that threshold, after Dane, Door and Bayfield counties. Door County is currently at 68% completing their vaccinations.

VACCINATIONS BY COUNTY POPULATION (FRIDAY)

County (Population) (Health region)% of population (change from previous report)Completed % of population (change from previous report)
Brown (264,542) (NE)56.8% (+0.1)53.6% (+0.1)
Calumet (50,089) (FV)50.8% (+0.1)48.2% (+0.1)
Dodge (87,839)45.8% (+0.1)42.9% (+0.0)
Door (27,668) (NE)71.0% (+0.0)68.0% (+0.1)
Fond du Lac (103,403) (SE)48.9% (+0.1)45.9% (+0.1)
Forest (9,004)46.0% (+0.1)43.4% (+0.1)
Florence (4,295) (NE)46.4% (+0.0)44.8% (+0.1)
Green Lake (18,913) (FV)50.3% (+0.0)47.0% (+0.0)
Kewaunee (20,434) (NE)46.1% (+0.1)43.8% (+0.2)
Manitowoc (78,981) (NE)53.3% (+0.1)50.4% (+0.1)
Marinette (40,350) (NE)46.7% (+0.1)43.9% (+0.1)
Menominee (4,556) (FV)66.4% (+0.1)60.0% (+0.3)
Oconto (37,930) (NE)47.4% (+0.0)44.9% (+0.1)
Outagamie (187,885) (FV)56.4% (+0.1)53.3% (+0.1)
Shawano (40,899) (FV)42.0% (+0.0)39.4% (+0.1)
Sheboygan (115,340) (SE)54.6% (+0.1)51.8% (+0.1)
Waupaca (50,990) (FV)49.1% (+0.1)46.1% (+0.1)
Waushara (24,443) (FV)40.1% (+0.1)37.9% (+0.1)
Winnebago (171,907) (FV)54.2% (+0.1)51.1% (+0.1)
NORTHEAST REGION (474,200) (NE)259,763 (54.8%) (+0.1)245,567 (51.8) (+0.1)
FOX VALLEY REGION (549,682) (FV)288,758 (52.5%) (+0.1)272,189 (49.5%) (+0.1)
WISCONSIN (5,822,434)3,257,828 (56.0%) (+0.0)3,071,904 (52.8%) (+0.1)

The spread of the COVID-19 virus is critically high in Forest County. It’s very high in 64 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, including 17 of the 19 counties we’re tracking in Northeast Wisconsin. It’s high in Menominee County.

COVID-19 testing sites

Walk-in or drive-through COVID-19 testing is available at Sunnyview Expo Center weekdays from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., with the Wisconsin National Guard handling the testing. Registration is encouraged at www.winnebagopublichealth.org. Testing is recommended (and free) for anyone as young as 1 year old who’s been in close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19, which can include fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, headache, muscle ache, or sudden loss of taste or smell. Results are usually back within 48 hours.

COVID-19 vaccination clinics

The community vaccination clinic inside Fox River Mall in Grand Chute is open from 11 A.M. to 7 P.M. on select dates through December 15. The list of dates will be updated on the Outagamie County website. No appointment is necessary for this walk-in clinic, which is located near the food court and Scheel’s. There’s no cost and no ID required.

On top of encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, health officials are also urging people to get vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible, so that overwhelmed hospitals don’t have to deal with flu cases in addition to the COVID-19 cases. The flu season was almost non-existent last year when more people were self-isolating or social distancing, masking, and following other mitigation protocols against COVID-19 -- the same protocols that slow the spread of the flu virus.

FRIDAY’S COUNTY CASE AND DEATH TOTALS (increase since the last report is in bold)**

  • Brown – 35,339 cases (+109) (264 deaths)
  • Calumet – 6,439 cases (+35) (53 deaths)
  • Dickinson (Mich.)* - 2,557 cases (+87) (60 deaths)
  • Dodge – 13,215 cases (+34) (188 deaths) (+1)
  • Door – 2,960 cases (+5) (31 deaths)
  • Florence - 474 cases (13 deaths)
  • Fond du Lac – 14,268 cases (+103) (139 deaths) (+1)
  • Forest - 1,177 cases (+7) (25 deaths)
  • Gogebic (Mich.)* - 1,212 cases (+7) (24 deaths)
  • Green Lake - 1,942 cases (+28) (24 deaths)
  • Iron (Mich.)* – 1,129 cases (+10) (43 deaths)
  • Kewaunee – 2,577 cases (+2) (30 deaths)
  • Langlade - 2,353 cases (+8) (36 deaths)
  • Manitowoc – 8,470 cases (+45) (78 deaths)
  • Marinette - 4,653 cases (+23) (69 deaths)
  • Menominee (Mich.)* - 2,112 cases (+77) (43 deaths)
  • Menominee – 863 cases (+2) (11 deaths)
  • Oconto – 5,115 cases (+40) (65 deaths)
  • Outagamie – 22,830 cases (+143) (231 deaths)
  • Shawano – 5,263 cases (+18) (74 deaths)
  • Sheboygan – 15,279 cases (+69) (155 deaths)
  • Waupaca – 5,592 cases (+52) (134 deaths) (+1)
  • Waushara – 2,460 cases (+11) (39 deaths)
  • Winnebago – 20,639 cases (+109) (214 deaths)

* You can find a list of cases and deaths for all Wisconsin counties on the DHS County Data website. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Wisconsin Hospital Association do not publish updates on weekends. Update: Michigan Department of Health updates information on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

** Cases and deaths are from state COVID-19 reports, which may differ from local health department numbers. The Wisconsin DHS reports cases from all health departments within a county’s boundaries, including tribal, municipal and county health departments; county websites may not. Also, public health departments update their data at various times, whereas the DHS freezes the numbers it receives by the same time every day to compile the afternoon report.

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