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DHS pushes safety steps ahead of spring semester

(WAVE 3 News)
Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 1:13 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - With the spring semester right around the corner, state health officials are urging families to take steps to protect the age group racking up the highest case counts in Wisconsin right now: the kids.

The viral cocktail of surging Omicron cases and students filing back into classrooms is raising worries about how many more children under 18 years old may be infected, Dept. of Health Services Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard explained, adding that those added cases could also have a “major ripple effect for community transmission and COVID-19 hospitalizations.”

DHS data show the under-18 age group continues to record the highest absolute number of new weekly cases and has done so every week since early August. Oftentimes, recording hundreds of cases more than any other age group, most of which span approximately 10 years.

The agency’s preliminary data of most recent cases find that under-18 set drops to third highest when measured on a per capita basis, trailing the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups, both of which surpassed it in late November. Up until that point, the under-18 age group had held the highest new case rate as well, starting with the August surge.

State Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly indicated the prospect of widespread preventive school closings was not considered a good option, saying “in-person instruction is important for our learners, families, and communities.”

“Keeping our schools open at this critical moment is the right choice, but it requires a collective effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 – this means getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, and following testing and safety protocols,” she continued, asking everyone to do their parts to maintain a safe classroom.

To help protect students – and, by extension, the community as a whole – DHS officials are asking families to work with local leaders and schools to take the following actions:

  • Get eligible children vaccinated
  • Get them a booster shot if they are eligible
  • Make sure they wear a mask, and they wear it safely
  • Get them tested if they are showing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Keep them home from school if they test positive or are exposed to COVID-19

To emphasize its point, DHS reiterated its previous public health advisory, regarding hospitals across the state reaching capacity limits. The agency pointed out that pediatric hospitalizations, so far, have been stable in Wisconsin. However, it expressed concern that the highly contagious nature of the Omicron variant could cause hospitalizations to rise, despite preliminary data showing that symptoms from the new variety being milder than those related to the Delta variant, which itself is not done with Wisconsin yet.

The Delta variant continues to make up the bulk of new cases in the state.

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