Dane Co. moves up to medium COVID-19 spread, health officials urge boosters to keep hospitalizations low

MADISON, Wis. — Public health officials in Dane County are again urging everyone to stay up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines, including scheduling booster appointments, as the county has moved up to “medium” levels of COVID-19 spread.

The CDC’s metrics look at a variety of factors to measure the level of COVID-19 spread in a community, including cases per 100,000 residents, new hospitalizations, and hospital bed capacity over the past week.

Dane County officials say the number of cases lately is what has tipped the community into the “medium” level, with a current seven-day average of 159 new cases per day. Health officials say Dane County’s high vaccination rate has helped hospitalizations stay low, though, with those rates not increasing despite the rise in the number of cases.

In the last two weeks, Dane County has seen an average of 29 people hospitalized with COVID-19 — which health officials say is the lowest level of hospitalizations since July 2021.

“While this increase is a cause of concern and caution, it is not a cause for alarm,” Public Health Madison and Dane County director Janel Heinrich said in a statement Friday.

Rising case numbers, though, can predict an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, so keeping those who test positive healthy enough to stay out of the hospital is key.

“It’s not necessarily meant to alarm our communities, but it’s meant for us to start thinking about what are the things we need to do which we all know to reduce transmission,” Dr. Amy Franta, SSM Health Wisconsin’s chief medical officer, said.

RELATED: Madison hospitals not making changes to visitor policies as Dane Co. sees increased COVID-19 activity

Health officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated and boosted, but there’s an increased push to treat patients early after they test positive for the virus. COVID-19 treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies, are now easier to come by, and according to Franta, they’re being underutilized.

“It doesn’t replace vaccination but it’s another tool,” she said.

According to the CDC, those in communities with medium levels of spread should stay up-to-date with their vaccines and get tested if they have symptoms. Those who are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should talk to their doctor about whether they need to wear a mask and other precautions.

The CDC recommends everyone wear a mask indoors if COVID spread reaches the “high” level. PHMDC has previously said they were not considering bringing back a mask mandate, although those comments came when the county was still in the “low” level of spread.

About 20 percent of Dane County’s eligible population has not yet received their booster shot, according to the latest numbers from PHMDC, and a little more than 63 percent of people are considered up-to-date on their COVID vaccines.