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DHS: Unvaccinated & vaccinated COVID-19 case rates nearly equal

(NBC15)
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 5:00 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 15, 2022 at 4:43 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - On the day Wisconsin was set to cross a new milestone for the number of new cases recorded in the state, the Dept. of Health Services also announced major changes to its dashboard.

The changes come as state surpasses the 1.4 million mark for confirmed cases since the pandemic began. With probable cases added, Wisconsin total now exceeds 1.5 million, having also passed that threshold on Thursday.

Among the changes are the removal of running counts from its breakdown of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Although these figures, and others listed below, no longer appear on the pages breaking out the individual COVID-19 statistics, they are still available on the DHS website as part of the Summary information page and in the form of downloadable spreadsheets that include all metrics recorded by the agency, listed by date. (UPDATE: This portion has been updated to note that the information is available on the Summary section in addition to the downloadable spreadsheets)

Vaccination Gaps Narrow

One metric that did reemerge in this latest report juxtaposes COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths for vaccinated and unvaccinated people in Wisconsin. The newly released numbers find those differences declined significantly in the three months since the agency last published these numbers.

In fact, the difference between the two groups for the number of new cases per capita has been all but eliminated. Whereas, as COVID-19 cases began to spike in December, an unvaccinated person was three times more likely to contract the virus than someone who completed their initial series, now the difference has fallen to just five percent.

The other two categories, hospitalizations and deaths, have also fallen significantly; however, notable gaps do remain between them. The differences in deaths, which previously stood at 14 to 1, now sits at a little more than three to one. An unvaccinated person is also approximately 2.5 times more likely to end up in the hospital than someone considered fully vaccinated.

Age-Adjusted COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations, and Deaths, Among Fully Vaccinated and Not Fully...
Age-Adjusted COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations, and Deaths, Among Fully Vaccinated and Not Fully Vaccinated People, on April 14, 2022.(Dept. of Health Services)

State health officials attributed the narrowing differences to the Omicron variant, saying that they expect to see more fully vaccinated people testing positive as a result of the mutation, but added today’s vaccines still protect against severe COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and death from the variant.

The charts provided by DHS only compare fully vaccinated individuals and those not fully vaccinated. They do not track if those fully vaccinated have received booster shots. To be considered fully vaccinated, someone would have needed to complete their initial series and wait two weeks afterwards.

Currently, the agency reports 60.9% of the state population is fully vaccinated. Dane Co. still leads the state in vaccination rates with more than three-quarters of its residents completing their series.

The fact that DHS has not published these figures since January makes it unclear when the gaps started narrowing. The previous report covered December while Thursday’s numbers combine the last three months. The lack of January, February, and March standalone numbers makes it harder to track if the differences fell as overall case numbers collapsed, if it aligned with the change in dominant variants, or if it is an even more recent trend. NBC15 News had asked about the lack of updates, which usually come mid-month, during the lapse and was told it occurred because of technical issues with the data. In a statement announcing the changes to its COVID-19 dashboard, DHS indicated it would return to monthly updates, which will now be issued on the 20th of each month.

More New Cases

The more than 800 cases reported in the past day pushed the seven-day rolling average to 729 cases per day. That number remains inflated by a spike in cases reported late last week caused by the agency clearing another backlog of positive tests.

Thursday’s report is expected to be the last day that metric, which smooths day-to-day volatility and health officials use to track trends, will be affected by that surge. However, the rolling-average has increased all week, even after extra cases stopped being added, indicating the average is rising regardless of the cases. The past two days have seen the highest single day totals since late February, except for last Friday, when the last of the old cases were factored in.

New confirmed COVID-19 cases by date confirmed, and 7-day average, on April 14, 2022.
New confirmed COVID-19 cases by date confirmed, and 7-day average, on April 14, 2022.(Dept. of Health Services)

The Changing Dashboard

In highlighting the myriad of changes that went into effect Wednesday for its dashboard, DHS officials focused on the replacement of its COVID-19 Disease Activity Dashboard with one health officials say is more in line with metrics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The changes include switching from its own disease activity classification system to the CDC’s levels.

As such, when the agency released the latest weekly statistics Wednesday, using its classification system Buffalo Co. became the first county in weeks to fall into the Very High category, with Dane Co. just barely under that threshold. Sixty-one counties registered as High and the remaining 10 were considered Medium. Now, with the CDC system in place, all counties are listed as Low, save for Buffalo Co., which is now Medium.

The elimination of the Disease Activity Dashboard page also means the new CDC map now lives on the agency’s Summary page, which features top line daily numbers.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, we are continuously adapting to changes and highlighting the data and information that is most useful for individuals and families to use in safeguarding their own health, and for our partners to use to make informed decisions for their communities,” DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said in a statement announcing the changes.

In that statement, DHS detailed all the visualizations that no longer exist on its COVID-19 dashboard, including: (list provided by DHS)

  • Graphs showing cumulative counts
  • Percent of COVID-19 cases living in group housing
  • Percent of confirmed COVID-19 deaths by group housing setting
  • Number of facility-wide COVID-19 public health investigations
  • COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by provider type
  • Map of COVID-19 cases and deaths by county, census tract, municipality, school district, and zip code
  • Map of COVID-19 vaccinations by county, census tract, municipality, school district, and zip code

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