Nearly 2.6 million Wisconsin residents live in counties where COVID-19 numbers and hospitalizations are high enough that federal guidelines call for everyone to wear masks indoors away from home.
COVID community levels (orange) are listed as high in 16 Wisconsin counties, including the three most populous. Community levels were updated July 21. They reflect new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population over seven days through Wednesday, July 20; new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population over seven days; and percentage of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients (seven-day average) through Tuesday, July 19. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) (Click on the image to open it in a larger window.)
Sixteen counties in the state, including the three most populous, have a “high community level” of COVID-19 under standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC guidelines recommend that in counties with a high community level, everyone should wear a mask indoors when they aren’t at home, regardless of whether they’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine or boosters.
The CDC updates its county-by-county community level ratings for COVID-19 every Thursday. The new list of counties with a high community level includes Milwaukee, Dane and Brown counties; the rest are Barron, Columbia, Door, Eau Claire, Grant, Green, Iowa, Kenosha, Portage, Richland, Rock, Rusk and Sawyer counties. Together they are home to 2.57 million people — 43% of Wisconsin’s total population.
It’s just a reminder that COVID hasn’t gone away. It’s getting worse, and whatever we’re doing now isn’t working.
– Ajay Sethi, University of Wisconsin epidemiologist
“When we get that high community level CDC indicator, that’s when community-wide masking is really necessary,” said Ajay Sethi, a University of Wisconsin epidemiologist. Even at lower community levels of COVID-19, “people who are especially vulnerable to severe disease should always be wearing their mask indoors,” he added.
The CDC began using the community level indicator — which combines the rate of new cases with local hospitalization data to measure the burden on the health care system — earlier this year. A separate CDC indicator uses COVID-19 case rates and the percentage of positive cases in a county to measure community spread of the virus. That map shows contin …