“Take immediate action” to stop COVID-19 Omicron variant: DHS urges

Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 9:43 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 20, 2021 at 12:27 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As COVID-19 case counts continue to climb and hospitals’ ICU and intermediate care wings across the state begin to reach capacity, the Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services is urging everyone to step up now and help prevent more people from ending up in the hospital or dying from the virus.

“I urge every Wisconsinite to take immediate action and get the COVID-19 vaccine and your booster dose if you haven’t received it already—this is critically important for mitigating surges in hospitalizations and deaths across our state,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a public health advisory released by the Dept. of Health Services on Monday.

The agency warns the Omicron variant will likely cause COVID-19 disease activity, which already stand near 2021 highs, to spike even further and could potentially overwhelm the state’s health care system. In its most recent update Friday, the Wisconsin Health Association finds 95.7 percent of ICU beds are in use, while 94.4 percent over overall beds are in use.

The comes less than an hour before the 1 p.m. news conference, state health officials plan to discuss vaccination progress and the hospital capacity concerns, as well as take questions about their response. NBC15 News will live stream the briefing online and on Facebook.

DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake will lead the briefing and be joined by the agency’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard and Marshfield Clinic Health System’s Dr. William Melms.

In the statement released prior to the briefing, Timberlake offered her own tips for helping mitigate the spread over the coming holidays.

“Keep holiday gatherings small, stay home if you have been exposed or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, and get tested before spending time with people you do not live with,” she said

The agency included the following three recommendations health officials ask all Wisconsinites to do immediately. They do not differ much from prior advice, but echo the steps people can take to prevent contracting or spreading coronavirus:

  • Get vaccinated against COVID-19, including a booster dose as soon as you are eligible.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask in indoor spaces when others are present who do not live with you.
  • Celebrate safely over the holidays by keeping gatherings small, getting tested before visiting others, and staying home if you have any symptoms.

Beyond the steps people are asked to take to halt the spread of COVID-19, DHS also reminds people to protect their mental health as well as their physical well being. It offers resources for coping with an managing stress here.

In addition to more information on the advisory, the news conference gives health officials a chance to offer the latest daily COVID-19 statistics and address them directly. Friday’s update found the seven-day rolling average for COVID-19-related deaths reached 26 per day over the prior two weeks. That’s the highest it has been since Jan. 21.

New cases Friday pushed the 4,000-mark, bringing that seven-day rolling average to 3,558 cases per day. DHS’ numbers that day reported 1,658 patients in Wisconsin hospitals.

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