WISCONSIN CORONAVIRUS: THE LATEST

The subvariant surge: Here’s the latest COVID-19 news to know in Wisconsin

BY Maddie Burakoff

MILWAUKEE — With extra-contagious versions of omicron spreading, Wisconsin has seen a sizable uptick in its COVID-19 numbers in recent weeks.

The current surge isn’t nearly as high as our omicron peaks. And from antiviral pills to COVID-19 vaccines — which may see even more updates in the coming months — we have more tools than ever to fight the pandemic.

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Wisconsin DHS recommends COVID-19 boosters for kids 5 and up

BY Aly Prouty
UPDATED 10:07 AM ET May. 24, 2022

WISCONSIN — The Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced Monday they support the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to recommend booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

DHS said kids in that age range should receive a booster dose five months after their Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine series.

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Pharmacists encouraged by Pfizer vaccine for those younger than 5

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE — Following Pfizer's announcement Monday that 3 smaller doses of its COVID-19 vaccine help to protect infants and toddlers from the virus, health care systems in Wisconsin are gearing up to help vaccinate them if and when the FDA and CDC grant final approval.

"These results are very encouraging," Mo Kharbat, SSM Health's Vice President of Pharmacy Services, said. "[The infants'] immune system was boosted enough to reach efficacy levels over 80%, preventing symptomatic disease."

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Many reach comfort level in crowds as COVID cases rise again in Milwaukee

BY Katarina Velazquez

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee County moved into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's “high” level of COVID-19 community spread on Friday.

This led the Milwaukee Health Department to issue a mask advisory for the city of Milwaukee. They said "all individuals, regardless of vaccination status or past COVID-19 infection, should wear a mask at all times when indoors and in a public setting."

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COVID curve climbs to new milestone in Wisconsin

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE— While Wisconsin's COVID case counts remain far below what we saw during this past winter's omicron spike, Dr. Ben Weston, chief health policy advisor with Milwaukee County, said the curve has now climbed higher than our state's initial spike tied to the delta variant.

"It's important to keep in mind— that's a dramatic undercount, probably more so than ever before as we see more and more home tests going on [that] we just don't have a good eye on," Weston said. "We're over 15% positivity and that's higher than any point during the Delta surge last fall."

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As nation marks grim COVID milestone, cases tick higher again in Wisconsin

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE— As the United States marked 1,000,000 deaths tied to COVID-19 Thursday, public health experts in Wisconsin took time to both look back to the start of the pandemic while also looking ahead at what's still to come.

"It's a devastating number," Dr. Ben Weston, Milwaukee County's chief health policy advisor, said. "It's been devastating to so many families that have lost a loved one. You look just in Wisconsin— we've had 14,000 deaths. The impact that has had on families, on children and on communities is impossible to measure."

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Health experts anticipate waves, not spikes, as COVID cases climb

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE— While cases of COVID-19 continue to climb across Wisconsin, many doctors and researchers aren't predicting the curve to spike in the U.S. as it did back in January, but they do anticipate more gradual waves going forward.

"At the end of the day, we're in that transition between a full-blown pandemic and an endemic, and we'll probably have some ebbs and flows but it's hard to predict," Dr. David Ottenbaker, the vice president of ambulatory clinical programs for SSM Health, told Spectrum News 1 on Thursday. "We hope we're out of the full pandemic where we're not going to have these massive surges, but we're going to have ebbs and flows and it's kind of what we're seeing right now."

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Research roundup: Here’s what we have learned about COVID-19 recently

BY Maddie Burakoff
UPDATED 10:15 AM ET May. 02, 2022

MILWAUKEE — Over the past two years, the scientific world has seen a steady flow of research updating what we know about the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and how it affects humans.

Because the virus is so new, researchers are still grappling with many questions about its function. And because of the nature of the scientific process, no single study can completely answer those questions. Instead, new research is constantly challenging our understanding of the pandemic.

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Wisconsin infants, toddlers one step closer to COVID vaccine

BY Jason Fechner

WISCONSIN— Moderna asked the Food and Drug Administration Thursday to approve their pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for the youngest of American; researchers and doctors, including at those UW Health, celebrated the news.

“The vaccine itself is a two-dose vaccine at this point, separated by 28 days,” said Dr. Bill Hartman, the principal investigator for UW-Health’s Moderna pediatric COVID-19 vaccine trial. “The results nationally that have been released by Moderna show that the safety profile has been excellent.”

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Health authorities decline COVID-19 exposure notification phone alerts

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two days after Divya Samu, 27, flew from Cincinnati back home to New York last week, she took a COVID-19 home rapid test because she was feeling ill and tested positive.

The next morning, she received an alert on her iPhone informing her she had been exposed on April 14 or 15, which gave her more confidence in her positive result.

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More reasons for hope as COVID-19 cases climb higher again

BY Jason Fechner
UPDATED 11:00 AM ET Apr. 26, 2022

MILWAUKEE — While cases of COVID-19 continue to climb again in Wisconsin, hospitalizations have remained low, and various health care experts say that's just one reason for optimism as the pandemic continues.

"What we're seeing right now is an uptick in positive cases of COVID, but thankfully we're not seeing an increase in the number of hospitalizations and ER visits," Mo Kharbat, SSM Health's Vice President of Pharmacy Services, said. "While there are more infections out there, they're not severe enough to need hospital stays or advanced medical care."

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Madison students must continue to mask up in class

BY Aly Prouty

MADISON, Wis. — Madison Metropolitan School District extended its mask mandate until the first week of May.

MMSD said anyone who enters a school building will be required to mask up until then. Officials said medical consultants told them extending the mandate “was in the best interest of its students and staff.”

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UW-Oshkosh study breaks down what local governments can learn from COVID-19

BY Maddie Burakoff

OSCEOLA, Wis. — Benjamin Krumenauer has long had a passion for local government.

Krumenauer said he grew up in municipal life, starting as an intern and working up to his current role as the village administrator for Osceola. The public sector is essential to people’s day-to-day lives, he said — from plowing roads to building parks.

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What you need to know about the BA.2 coronavirus subvariant in Wisconsin

BY Maddie Burakoff
UPDATED 9:30 AM ET Apr. 10, 2022

MILWAUKEE — There’s been some drama in the omicron family.

BA.1 was the first sub-lineage of the omicron variant to make its mark, leading surges across the globe this past winter. But now, BA.2 — another version of omicron that’s kind of like a sister to BA.1 — is coming along to steal the spotlight.

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Upcoming dance show turns collective experiences into art

BY Phillip Boudreaux

BROOKFILED, Wis.— The Nova Linea Dance Company is getting ready to perform their upcoming show “The Great Pause.”

The performance is using dance as a vehicle to show what lessons people can learn from the pandemic.

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Study shows troubling trends for teens throughout pandemic

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE— A new CDC study out this week on the mental well being of high school students across the country provided a troubling look at the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has had on teenagers, and showed that 20% had strongly considered suicide over the past 2 years.

"A lot of it makes sense when you look back at the past 2 years, there's been so much change that's happened," Dr. Amanda Heins, a licensed clinical psychologist with Rogers Behavioral Health said. "Having abrupt shifts in what school looks like, my day-to-day interactions with my peers, even witnessing how my parents or loved ones are coping with the ripple effects of COVID... It is harder for some of those kids to jump back into their [new] routine."

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Milwaukee Public Schools making move to "mask optional" on April 18

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE— Milwaukee Public Schools, the state's largest school district, moved forward with a plan this week to essentially end their current mask mandate in mid-April, making the move going forward to mask-optional instead as cases of COVID-19 continue to fade statewide.

"We have been through a lot this year and for the last really three years, going through this pandemic and working through this pandemic," Dr. Keith Posley, superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, told Spectrum News 1 on Friday. "We have been in constant communication and looking at the CDC guidelines, working with the Department of Health Services, the Milwaukee Health Department, the Council of Great City Schools and all our partners [looking] at what we can do and when is a great time to look at masks being made optional."

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UW Health plays role in what could be first COVID-19 vaccine for babies, young children

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE — The wait continues for Moderna to file for emergency use authorization of its pediatric COVID-19 vaccine, days after the pharmaceutical company released its Phase 2 and Phase 3 testing data.

“These kids were six months to six years old,” said Dr. Bill Hartman, the principal investigator for UW-Health’s Moderna pediatric COVID-19 vaccine trial. “This was a trial that looked at the efficacy and the safety of the Moderna vaccine in these young kids, the 18 million nationwide who still aren’t eligible for a vaccine.”

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Wisconsin doctors encourage patients to return to routine screenings

BY Jason Fechner

WISCONSIN— While health care providers across Wisconsin continue to deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and nurses continue to encourage patients who may have let their routine health care and screenings to slide over the past two years to get back on track

"We really do want to encourage everyone to get back to having their health screenings and exams, including your routine physical with your primary care provider, and getting your laboratory work," Dr. Shaneli Fernando, a radiation oncologist at ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center, said. "Your primary care provider can really guide you to the specific screening studies that you could need based on your age, based on risk factors like family history. So, yes— even though there could be some fear in that 'Maybe we've put things off longer than we should have,' I really want to encourage everyone to return to routine health maintenance."

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Research roundup: Here’s what we have learned about COVID-19 recently

BY Maddie Burakoff
UPDATED 4:45 PM ET Mar. 20, 2022

MILWAUKEE — Over the past two years, the scientific world has seen a steady flow of research updating what we know about the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and how it affects humans.

Because the virus is so new, researchers are still grappling with many questions about its function. And because of the nature of the scientific process, no single study can completely answer those questions. Instead, new research is constantly challenging our understanding of the pandemic.

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The quest is on for a 'universal' COVID-19 vaccine, is it possible?

BY Pete Grieve

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Health authorities and vaccine researchers are increasingly interested in the pursuit of a “universal” COVID-19 vaccine that is resistant to variants.

After the omicron wave demonstrated that the virus’s ability to mutate can jeopardize the efficacy of existing vaccines, U.S. health officials have acknowledged that creating more durable vaccines will be key to a successful long-term vaccine strategy.

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Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Barnes tests positive for COVID-19

BY Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said Wednesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19 but not experiencing any symptoms.

Barnes, who said he was vaccinated, is also a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

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Breaking down MIS-C, the post-COVID condition in kids

BY Maddie Burakoff

MILWAUKEE — Over the course of the pandemic, Wisconsin’s kids are the ones who have seen the most cases.

According to Department of Health Services data, residents under 18 have gotten infected more often than any other age group in the state. And though children are generally at a lower risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes, they are uniquely vulnerable to one problem: Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C.

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‘We just settled from a tidal wave’: The latest COVID-19 news to know in Wisconsin

BY Maddie Burakoff
UPDATED 11:00 AM ET Mar. 03, 2022

MILWAUKEE — The delta variant put a damper on Wisconsin’s “new normal.” The omicron variant sent COVID-19 cases higher than they’d ever been — by a long shot.

But for the first time in a long time, Wisconsin’s pandemic numbers are heading in the right direction. Just as quickly as cases surged, they’ve fallen back down in recent weeks, bringing severe outcomes with them.

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Nearly half of Biden’s 500M free COVID tests still unclaimed

BY Spectrum News Staff and Associated Press

Nearly half of the 500 million free COVID-19 tests the Biden administration recently made available to the public still have not been claimed as virus cases plummet and people feel less urgency to test.

Wild demand swings have been a subplot in the pandemic, from vaccines to hand sanitizer, along with tests. On the first day of the White House test giveaway in January, COVIDtests.gov received over 45 million orders. Now officials say fewer than 100,000 orders a day are coming in for the packages of four free rapid tests per household, delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.

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As COVID-19 cases fall, far fewer kids getting vaccinated

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE— As cases of COVID-19 continue to fall across Wisconsin, and as more schools and the UW System prepare to pull back on pandemic-related restrictions, doctors in Wisconsin said they're worried that too many people will think the threat from the virus is suddenly gone.

"There was a real flurry as the vaccines became available initially back in November, but it's really dropped off quite dramatically over the last couple weeks," Dr. Jim Conway, a pediatric infectious disease physician at UW Health Kids and a professor at UW Madison, said. "While things are getting better, this by no means means the kids are out of the woods on this. They are the most vulnerable."

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Dane County to drop mask mandate by March 1

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE— After extending the county-wide mask mandate across Dane County late in January, Public Health Madison Dane County Monday confirmed that it will let its current face covering order expire on March 1.

"Things are going in the right direction," Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County. "We anticipate that [cases] will continue to decrease and that's good news, [and waiting until March 1] allows time for that decrease to continue, and time for folks and organizations who may want to develop their own policies to have those in place."

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Thompson hails fight against virus in farewell as UW leader

BY Spectrum News Staff

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Tommy Thompson, the 80-year-old former governor who has spent more than 50 years in public service, said in a sometimes emotional farewell address Friday that the University of Wisconsin System has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than before he took over as interim president.

Thompson took the temporary job in the early months of the pandemic in July 2020 and held it until a permanent successor was named.

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Research roundup: Shedding new light on COVID-19

BY Maddie Burakoff
UPDATED 10:43 AM ET Feb. 09, 2022

MILWAUKEE — Over the past two years, the scientific world has seen a steady flow of research updating what we know about the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and how it affects humans.

Because the virus is so new, researchers are still grappling with many questions about its function. And because of the nature of the scientific process, no single study can completely answer those questions. Instead, new research is constantly challenging our understanding of the pandemic.

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Health officials: Omicron peak has passed

BY Phillip Boudreaux

MILWAUKEE— COVID-19 cases are falling in Milwaukee County but transmission levels remain high.

At the weekly county COVID-19 briefing, Chief Health Policy Advisor Dr. Ben Weston said he thinks we are past the omicron peak.

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No rush yet for COVID antiviral pills at Wisconsin pharmacy

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE— Less than two months after the FDA approved the first of two COVID-19 antiviral pills in the United States, initial fears about supply shortages haven't played out yet, at least not at one Wisconsin pharmacy.

"We've seen pretty low demand compared to what we were expecting," said Maren Rasmussen, a pharmacist with Neuhauser Pharmacy in Madison. "We've gotten in two shipments at our pharmacy in Madison and we still have supply from both of those shipments, actually... We see about 1-2 prescriptions a day for the COVID-19 pills."

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State medical officer: COVID could become endemic in 2022

BY Phillip Boudreaux and Associated Press
UPDATED 8:00 PM ET Feb. 03, 2022

MADISON, Wis.— While new daily COVID-19 cases continue to decline from the holiday peak, the recent discovery of omicron subvariant in Wisconsin could put trends into a flux.

State officials said as of Feb. 3, they have discovered less than five cases of the new sub variant BA.2 in Wisconsin.

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Where Wisconsin goes from here, as COVID-19 subvariant spreads

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE — As Wisconsin's COVID-19 case curve continues to drop, public health experts are now tracking a new omicron subvariant which has shown up in Wisconsin dubbed BA.2.

"It's about 1.5 times more transmissible or contagious [than the original omicron variant]," Dr. Ben Weston, chief health policy officer with Milwaukee County and an associate professor with the Medical College of Wisconsin, said. "That's pretty impressive because omicron itself was pretty contagious, but then we have to think about the next category which is severity, and when we look at severity, the data is really early right now."

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COVID-19 down the drain: What wastewater can tell us about our pandemic future

BY Maddie Burakoff

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin researchers don’t have a crystal ball to see where the COVID-19 pandemic is heading. What they do have: Bottles and bottles of sewage.

For more than a year now, scientists in the Badger State have been tracking the SARS-CoV-2 virus through wastewater. That’s possible because infected people don’t just breathe the virus out through their airways — they also flush it down the toilet in their feces.

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Wisconsin marks two years since first COVID-19 case

BY Jason Fechner
UPDATED 4:59 PM ET Jan. 31, 2022

MILWAUKEE — It may seem hard to believe, but this week, Wisconsin will mark the start of a third year dealing with COVID-19, and only time will tell whether the pandemic is still a factor by the end of its third year.

"I don't think anyone back in January of 2020 would have predicted that two years later, we'd still be talking about this," said Dr. Jeff Pothof, Chief Quality Officer at UW Health. "And not just talking about this but you know, COVID's causing more problems for us now than it was in January of 2020 — I think we were thinking a year at the most and boy were we wrong."

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Boosting the Badger State: Here are the latest COVID-19 vaccine updates to know in Wisconsin

BY Maddie Burakoff
UPDATED 8:48 AM ET Jan. 28, 2022

MILWAUKEE — After many record-shattering weeks, the omicron surge in Wisconsin seems like it might finally be turning around.

The latest surge has shown that vaccines and boosters put up a fight against omicron’s worst effects. In Wisconsin, the burden of COVID-19 deaths is falling even more heavily on the unvaccinated.

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Mask mandate extended for Madison, Dane County

BY Aly Prouty

MADISON, Wis.— Public Health Madison and Dane County announced Wednesday its face covering order will be extended through March 1, under Face Covering Emergency Order #7.

The emergency order goes into effect Feb. 1, as soon as the current emergency order expires.

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The omicron effect: Here’s the latest COVID-19 news to know in Wisconsin

BY Maddie Burakoff

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin’s COVID-19 numbers have been in rough shape since the new year kicked off and the omicron variant took over.

Cases have soared to new heights. Hospitals have been stretched thin. And the youngest Wisconsinites have been hit hard with infections — sometimes getting really sick.

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Two years since first COVID-19 case in U.S., Wisconsinites reflect on pandemic

BY Ryan Burk

MILWAUKEE— It has been exactly two years since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the United States and it has many Wisconsinites reflecting on the past 24 months.

At Milwaukee’s 3rd Street Market Hall, people are once again making their way out in public, but as the omicron variant spreads, others are being more cautious than they were in months past.

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Health official: Omicron has not peaked in Wisconsin

BY Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The COVID-19 omicron variant has yet to peak in Wisconsin, even as there are encouraging signs it is waning in parts of the northeastern United States where it was first detected, the state’s chief medical officer said Thursday.

Hopefully, the state is at or near the peak even though the data does not yet show it, said Dr. Ryan Westergaard during a conference call.

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Not even pharmacies can easily get their hands on COVID-19 rapid tests

BY Savanna Tomei

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. — Demand for at-home SARS CoV-2 tests is so high right now, some pharmacists can’t even get them.

We’ve all seen an empty spot on a shelf at some point over the last six weeks, where rapid tests should be. Right now, they’re tough to find, even for retailers like pharmacies.

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Research roundup: Here’s what we have learned about COVID-19 recently

BY Maddie Burakoff

MILWAUKEE — Over the past two years, the scientific world has seen a steady flow of research updating what we know about the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and how it affects humans.

Because the virus is so new, researchers are still grappling with many questions about its function. And because of the nature of the scientific process, no single study can completely answer those questions. Instead, new research is constantly challenging our understanding of the pandemic.

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So you tested positive for COVID-19 using an at-home kit. Now what?

BY Aly Prouty

WISCONSIN — COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing across Wisconsin; Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 18,216 new COVID-19 cases on Monday alone.

Between high numbers and long COVID-19 testing lines, many Wisconsinsites are turning to at-home tests, which have been available free of charge both state and nationwide.

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State Superintendent breaks down how Wisconsin schools are navigating the COVID-19 surge

BY Jason Fechner

WISCONSIN— It's been nearly two years since schools in Wisconsin and across the country first made the move to virtual learning as COVID-19 began to spread. Now, many Wisconsin schools have been forced to shift back temporarily as the spike in the omicron variant has triggered staffing shortages statewide.

"We're talking about things we can do to help at the agency," Dr. Jill Underly, the state superintendent of public instruction, said. "Clearly the mitigation factors of masking, vaccinations, getting tested— that's what's working."

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Troops to staff nursing facilities to free up hospital beds

BY Associated Press
UPDATED 7:00 PM ET Jan. 13, 2022

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin National Guard troops will help fill staffing shortages at skilled nursing facilities over the coming weeks in hopes of opening up more beds and relieving pressure on hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, Gov. Tony Evers announced Thursday.

The governor said troops are being trained as certified nursing assistants. About 50 soldiers were deployed to six nursing homes during the past week. Another 80 soldiers who started training this week will deploy at the end of January. And a group of 80 soldiers will begin training in early February and deploy by the end of that month.

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Your stay-at-home guide: Breaking down the latest on COVID-19 quarantine and isolation

BY Maddie Burakoff

MILWAUKEE — COVID-19 is spreading fast as the year gets underway. And with omicron sending cases to record highs, more and more people are navigating what to do after a positive test.

The CDC recently updated its guidance on quarantine and isolation. The new timelines can get complicated, but taking the right steps is important to help stop the spread.

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GOPs advance bill to count prior COVID infection as immunity

BY Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican lawmakers are advancing a bill that would require employers to count a prior COVID-19 infection as an alternative to vaccination and testing.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that the measure came up for a public hearing Tuesday. Republican lawmakers and bill supporters spent most of the hearing testifying about how they consider natural immunity resulting from an infection to be at least as effective as being vaccinated.

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Not all COVID-19 masks are created equal, but which one should you wear now?

BY Jason Fechner
UPDATED 7:00 AM ET Jan. 11, 2022

MILWAUKEE — As the COVID-19 omicron variant continues to spread, setting new case records in Wisconsin and as the CDC continues to update masking guidance for what might be the most effective type of mask, doctors advise that it's not a matter of less is more right now but rather, more is more.

"Masks is one layer of multiple things you should be thinking about," Dr. Dan Shirley, the interim medical director for UW Health Infection Control, told Spectrum News 1 on Monday. "And really the type of mask you need might vary depending on the type of situation you're in."

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365 more days of COVID-19: What scientists learned in our second pandemic year

BY Maddie Burakoff

MILWAUKEE — So, 2021 didn’t turn out to be the year we ended the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we head into the new year, the novel coronavirus is surging once again. Despite the deja vu, though, we’re not in the same spot as before: We’ve uncovered a lot about COVID-19 in our second year of living with it.

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Colleges face tough decisions amid omicron case surge

BY Megan Carpenter

APPLETON, Wis.—As college students resume classes across Wisconsin, they come back during a staggering surge in COVID-19 cases. It leaves administrators within the higher education sector facing a slew of tough decisions. The most challenging issue surrounds virtual versus in-person learning.

Thus far, Spectrum News 1 has confirmed Marquette University, Edgewood College and Lawrence University are taking precautions. The first two will delay the second semester by about one week, from Jan. 18 to Jan. 24. Marquette University will also require booster shots for students this semester.

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Omicron explosion spurs nationwide breakdown of services

BY Associated Press
UPDATED 1:32 PM ET Jan. 08, 2022

Ambulances in Kansas speed toward hospitals then suddenly change direction because hospitals are full. Employee shortages in New York City cause delays in trash and subway services and diminish the ranks of firefighters and emergency workers. Airport officials shut down security checkpoints at the biggest terminal in Phoenix and schools across the nation struggle to find teachers for their classrooms.

The current explosion of omicron-fueled coronavirus infections in the U.S. is causing a breakdown in basic functions and services — the latest illustration of how COVID-19 keeps upending life more than two years into the pandemic.

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Doctor pushes back against misuse of VAERS data by anti-vax groups

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE — Sen. Ron Johnson on Thursday attempted to take censors at Twitter to task for "blocking" an earlier tweet this week, citing data from the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) to highlight claims of adverse effects and deaths tied to current COVID-19 vaccines. A doctor is pushing back on those claims citing misuse of the data.

Sadly, we passed two milestones on VAERS. Over 1 million adverse events and over 21,000 deaths. 30% of those deaths occurred on day 0, 1, or 2 following vaccination. When will federal agencies start being transparent with Americans? Why do they continue to ignore early treatment? pic.twitter.com/K4DbcOwayo

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Officials urge shots, tests as COVID reaches record levels

BY Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Exhausted health officials on Thursday again begged Wisconsin residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19, test for the disease if they’ve been exposed and stay home as omicron swamps state hospitals.

The state Department of Health Services reported a staggering 11,574 cases on Thursday, shattering the old record of 10,288 cases set a day earlier.

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Madison students are heading back to school on Monday

BY Aly Prouty

MADISON, Wis.— All students will return to in-person learning in Madison on Monday, Jan. 10, the Madison Metropolitan School District announced Thursday.

The reopening comes after a weeklong delay in returning from MMSD's winter break.

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Here's where you can find a COVID-19 test in Wisconsin

BY Aly Prouty
UPDATED 12:35 PM ET Jan. 06, 2022

WISCONSIN — COVID-19 cases are climbing in Wisconsin, and as a result, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services is seeing an increased demand for COVID-19 testing.

Here are COVID-19 testing sites in major metropolitan areas around the Badger State.

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Local laboratories see increase in COVID-19 testing after holidays

BY Andrew Havranek

NEW BERLIN, Wis. — Joan Ross from Wauwatosa is vaccinated against COVID-19, and has received her booster shot. But, after a vacation to Maui, she got tested on Wednesday at Summit Clinical Laboratories in New Berlin.

“We think we might have been exposed to COVID,” Ross said before her test.

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Wisconsin doctors track uptick of COVID-19 cases among kids

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE— In the midst of the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, and in Wisconsin which recorded its highest one-day total Tuesday since the pandemic began, doctors continue to track more pediatric cases which are landing kids in the hospital.

"We're seeing a lot more kids testing positive, no question," said Dr. James Conway, a pediatric infectious disease physicial and medical director of UW Health's immunization program. "I think nationally we've seen that over 20% of the positives are kids and so we're seeing that as well. We're seeing a fairly steady rate of hospitalizations since Delta swept through and then Omicron on top of it."

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Booster availability expanding? What Wisconsin parents may want to know

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE— After the FDA gave them the green light earlier this week, the CDC appeared poised Tuesday to sign off on Pfizer's booster shot for kids between the ages of 12 and 15.

"Here in Dane County and this part of the state, this age group, 12-17, is heavily vaccinated, so we expect them to be back for their third shots [when approved]," said Mo Kharbat, the vice president of pharmacy services with SSM Health.

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Someone tested positive for COVID-19 after the holidays. Now what?

BY Jason Fechner
UPDATED 5:30 PM ET Jan. 01, 2022

MILWAUKEE — It's a text message or phone call that a lot of Wisconsinites have gotten over the past few days and likely will into 2022: "Just a heads-up that I've tested positive for COVID-19 and it's likely not a bad idea to go get tested."

"The way it currently stands, if that person [who came in contact with someone who tested positive] is vaccinated and doesn't have symptoms, then they're okay to carry on as long as they mask when they're around others and they watch for symptoms," Anna Nick, a public health administrator with the Brown County Health Department, said Monday. "The recommendation is still— even for vaccinated individuals— to get tested around days 5-7 [since the exposure]."

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As 2022 begins, demand for COVID-19 testing rises in Milwaukee

BY Ryan Burk

MILWAUKEE— As the holidays wrap up, demand for COVID-19 testing is high in the Milwaukee area.

Friday, the Milwaukee Health Department decided to keep their Menomonee Valley testing site open on New Year's Eve. The city’s three COVID-19 testing sites were originally set to be closed on Friday.

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Madison school district delays winter break, returns virtually

BY Megan Marshall

MADISON, Wis.— Concerns of COVID-19 are giving students in Madison, Wisconsin an extended winter break.

In a virtual press conference Friday, the Madison Metropolitan School District announced a return to virtual learning due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

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Wisconsin epidemiologist predicts COVID-19 surge will last 6 to 8 weeks

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE— As of Thursday, Jefferson County in Wisconsin was one of 20 counties where the Wisconsin Department of Health Services considered the spread of COVID-19 to be "critically high."

"[Hospitals across Wisconsin are having to deal with very strained capacity and having to divert patients 100-200 miles away," Samroz Jakvani, an epidemiologist with the Jefferson County Health Department, said.

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Wisconsin tops 10,000 COVID-19 deaths

BY Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — COVID-19 has now claimed the lives of more than 10,000 Wisconsin residents.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that state health officials counted 34 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the death total since the pandemic began to 10,014.

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COVID-19 in 2021: A timeline of Wisconsin’s second pandemic year

BY Maddie Burakoff

MILWAUKEE — As 2021 comes to a close, we’ll be ringing in another new year with the COVID-19 pandemic at our side.

This year may not have brought in the “new normal” that we hoped for. But we’ve still seen a lot of changes over the past 12 months.

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Test refresh: Key tips about COVID-19 testing amid the omicron surge

BY Maddie Burakoff

MILWAUKEE — If you’re looking to get a COVID-19 test in Wisconsin these days, you’re definitely not alone.

With omicron’s quick spread this holiday season, the state is seeing longer lines at sites and higher demand for at-home kits. Health experts have stressed that testing is still a key tool for containing the COVID-19 spread amid our latest surge.

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Need a COVID-19 test in Wisconsin? You have options, despite high demand

BY Aly Prouty
UPDATED 6:00 PM ET Dec. 28, 2021

WISCONSIN — COVID-19 cases are climbing in Wisconsin, and as a result, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services is seeing an increased demand for COVID-19 testing.

On Nov. 29 and 30, more than 4,000 new cases were reported in the Badger State per day. DHS classified 30 Wisconsin counties as having "critically high" disease activity level, and the remaining 42 as having "very high" disease activity level.

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Milwaukee COVID-19 testing sites see increase between holidays

BY Megan Marshall

MILWAUKEE — With New Year’s Eve coming up this weekend, lines to get a COVID-19 test continue to be long.

The long lines continue at COVID-19 testing centers around Milwaukee. The city testing site on the north side had a line wrapping around the building and the bock an hour before it even opened on Tuesday.

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Hospitals ask for your help in getting through COVID-19 surge

BY Jason Fechner

WISCONSIN — Floating around all over Facebook and Twitter is the unsubstantiated claim that the only reason hospitals are struggling with bed space right is because hospital workers simply haven't been showing up to work.

"Folks will say it was the vaccine mandate for health care organizations [or] that we fired everyone," Dr. Jeff Pothof, emergency medicine physician and chief quality officer at UW Health, said. "Truth be told, it's much less than 1% of folks that were let go at UW Health. In fact, most of our staff were vaccinated before the mandate and for the most part, our health care workers are working overtime, putting in way more effort, way more time, not taking their breaks so that they can have an impact [and] so that they can save lives."

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Pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations on the rise as omicron spreads

BY Rachel Tillman

An increasing number of young children are being hospitalized with COVID-19 across the United States, thanks in part to the omicron variant sweeping the nation.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of adolescents hospitalized with COVID-19 increased by 30% between Dec. 18 and Dec. 25, the most recent date for which data is available. That’s an average of about 260 children being admitted to the hospital each day.

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Your guide to the coronavirus variants, from alpha to omicron

BY Maddie Burakoff
UPDATED 3:52 PM ET Dec. 27, 2021

MILWAUKEE — Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the world looks a lot different than it used to. And so does the coronavirus itself.

As it’s infected hundreds of millions of people around the globe, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been in a state of constant change, making small tweaks to its genetic code as it goes along.

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Federal program offers cash to cover COVID-19 funeral costs

BY Associated Press

When Wanda Olson’s son-in-law died in March after contracting COVID-19, she and her daughter had to grapple with more than just their sudden grief. They had to come up with money for a cremation.

Even without a funeral, the bill came to nearly $2,000, a hefty sum that Olson initially covered. She and her daughter then learned of a federal program that reimburses families up to $9,000 for funeral costs for loved ones who died of COVID-19.

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Variants 101: Understanding how the coronavirus mutates, and why it matters

BY Maddie Burakoff
UPDATED 4:26 PM ET Dec. 26, 2021

MILWAUKEE — Yet another version of the novel coronavirus has swept the world.

Over the past two years of the pandemic, we’ve seen the SARS-CoV-2 virus change up on us quite a few times — from the alpha variant that raised alarm in the spring to the delta variant that fueled our latest surge. Now, omicron is on the rise, and has quickly become the dominant variant in the U.S.

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De Blasio: Times Square to host 'scaled back' NYE celebration

BY Maya Rajamani and Dan Rivoli
UPDATED 12:26 AM ET Dec. 24, 2021

NEW YORK — Times Square will host approximately 43,000 fewer people than normal and require revelers to be fully vaccinated and masked as part of a “scaled back” New Year’s Eve celebration, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

Around 15,000 people will be allowed to attend this year’s celebration at the Crossroads of the World, down from the usual 58,000, de Blasio said in a press release.

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NFL reduces testing for asymptomatic vaccinated players

BY Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Only unvaccinated players and those experiencing possible symptoms of COVID-19 will be tested, starting Sunday, under the NFL’s revised protocols.

Also, higher risk players have until 2 p.m. Monday to send written notice if they choose to opt out, according to a memo sent to clubs on Saturday and obtained by The Associated Press. The players will not be paid and the notice is irrevocable.

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Boosters vs. omicron: Here’s the latest news to know about COVID-19 vaccines in Wisconsin

BY Maddie Burakoff

MILWAUKEE — One year ago, the very first Wisconsinites started rolling up their sleeves for the brand-new COVID-19 vaccines.

Since then, more than 3.4 million residents have gotten a shot — and many are now adding on booster doses for extra protection. But a second pandemic winter is already bringing new challenges, as the extra-contagious omicron variant has appeared while Wisconsin is still fighting off its delta surge.

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Here’s when to get a COVID-19 test if you're having cold, flu or allergy symptoms

BY Eileen Street

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A cough, fatigue and runny nose are all symptoms of COVID-19, but they're also common symptoms of allergies, the flu, the common cold and a sinus infection.

So if you're feeling those symptoms, should you get tested for COVID-19 or the flu? Or is it allergies, which can be helped by over-the-counter medication?

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Minnesota resident tests positive for omicron COVID-19 variant, recently traveled to NYC: officials

BY Justin Izzo and Ryan Chatelain
UPDATED 12:47 PM ET Dec. 02, 2021

The Minnesota Department of Health announced on Thursday that a Minnesota resident has tested positive for the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, and said that person recently traveled to New York City.

News Release: Lab testing confirms state’s first COVID-19 case involving Omicron variant https://t.co/kBQwR8XwPc

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COVID-19 testing numbers surge in Dane County

BY Kathryn Larson

MADISON, Wis— As the holiday season continues, your COVID-19 testing center could soon see an increase in volume.

While the variants remain a chief concern, record testing numbers are being recorded.

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COVID-19 updates: Here’s the latest pandemic news to know in Wisconsin

BY Maddie Burakoff
UPDATED 6:39 PM ET Nov. 23, 2021

MILWAUKEE — The story looks familiar: Another fall turns into winter. Another pandemic holiday approaches. And, in Wisconsin, another spike in COVID-19 cases gets underway.

“Of course, we can’t predict the future. But the trend we’re seeing, I would say from last week to this week, is very concerning,” state epidemiologist Dr. Ryan Westergaard said at a Department of Health Services briefing last week. “The slope of the curve looks similar to what we saw last fall.”

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Wisconsin DHS releases health and safety guidelines ahead of Thanksgiving

BY Aly Prouty

WISCONSIN— As people around the world continue to roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services is urging people to use caution this holiday season.

“Celebrating the holiday season and its traditions is important to Wisconsin families, and we can all celebrate safely this year if we remember to take a few simple steps,” said Karen Timberlake, DHS secretary-designee. “Family and friends planning to gather for celebrations should get vaccinated as soon as possible, including getting a booster if you are eligible, as the COVID-19 vaccine is still the best ways to minimize risk from the virus. If you will not be fully vaccinated in time for the holidays, it is especially critical that you take additional steps to protect yourself and others around you by wearing a mask in public spaces, getting tested if you feel sick or have COVID-19 symptoms, and staying home if you aren’t feeling well.”

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Macy’s unveils 6 new floats for Thanksgiving Day Parade, including a 'floalloonicle'

BY Clodagh McGowan
UPDATED 5:16 PM ET Nov. 16, 2021

Moonachie, N.J. — A feast for your stomach — and for your eyes. That’s the theme of a festive creation, the Heinz Gravy Pirate boat, a completely new element for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade route.

“It’s a 'floalloonicle.' So it's part float, part 'balloonicle,'” said Will Coss, the executive producer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. "So it’s got an interior structure and sort of s stage for our talent on top. But it also has a balloon element, which is the actual pirate ship itself."

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Poll: Americans still plan to cautiously celebrate the holidays amid COVID-19

BY Lydia Taylor

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The world is in its second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and although much progress has been made with COVID-19 vaccines becoming more widely available, many U.S. families still plan to cautiously celebrate the holidays, according to a survey from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

The online survey by the Harris Poll on behalf of the Wexner Medical Center questioned 2,042 adults 18 and older between Oct. 29 and Nov. 1. Nearly half plan to require friends and family to wear masks during gatherings, which is down 67% compared to OSU's poll last year. Around three-fourths said they plan to celebrate with only members of their household.

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Fiserv Forum COVID-19 vaccine clinic brings in the herd

BY Aly Prouty

MILWUAKEE— Kids could not only get the COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, but they could also snap a photo with Bango and the Milwaukee Bucks' Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

The line to get a #COVIDvaccine at @FiservForum is already backing into @DeerDistrict The whole family can get vaccinated at today’s clinic now until 2 p.m. pic.twitter.com/tkRF12wfq4

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Data: Widespread COVID-19 in deer

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE— In the wake of new a new study showing that 80% of white-tailed deer tested positive for COVID-19, some researchers say the impact on the overall population should be minimal.

"From what we can tell, it's not impacting the health of the animals that much," Tony Goldberg, a professor and disease ecologist with the University of Wisconsin, told Spectrum News 1 on Friday. "We certainly haven't seen scores of deer dead on the side of the road."

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Research roundup: Here’s what we have learned about the coronavirus recently

BY Maddie Burakoff

MILWAUKEE — Over the past year and a half, the scientific world has seen a steady flow of research updating what we know about the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and how it affects humans.

Because the virus is so new, researchers are still grappling with many questions about its function. And because of the nature of the scientific process, no single study can completely answer those questions. Instead, new research is constantly challenging our understanding of the pandemic.

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COVID-19 vaccines for kids are here. What does that mean for Wisconsin?

BY Maddie Burakoff
UPDATED 11:00 AM ET Nov. 09, 2021

MILWAUKEE — It’s been almost a year since the COVID-19 vaccines started rolling out to change the pandemic game. And now, for the first time, young kids are eligible to start getting their shots.

After multiple rounds of discussions, federal health officials gave the go-ahead Tuesday for kids aged 5 to 11 to get the Pfizer vaccine, and kids across the country — including in Wisconsin — started rolling up their sleeves soon after.

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Health care providers encourage parents to move fast on COVID-19 vaccine

BY Jason Fechner

MILWAUKEE— With health care providers, schools and pharmacies across Wisconsin now ready to start vaccinating younger children against COVID-19, experts are warning parents not to wait a few weeks before setting up an appointment for their child or children.

"The vaccine, based on the study that was conducted by Pfizer, the vaccine is found to be safe and effective for children in this age group from 5 to 11," Mo Kharbat, Vice President of Pharmacy with SSM Health Wisconsin, told Spectrum News 1 Wednesday. "My advice to parents is to get their kids vaccinated— the sooner, the better— because it's two doses, and then people will develop enough immunity to be fully protected two weeks after the second dose, so it will take several weeks between now and the time they get that protection, so the sooner they start, the better."

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More COVID shot appointments for young kids to go online by Friday

BY Austin Landis

One day after the nation’s top public health agency gave a final green light to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine for young kids, federal health officials on Wednesday called the next phase of vaccinations ‘monumental’ and detailed the rollout of children’s vaccines expected over the coming days and weeks.

That includes adding shot appointments for kids 5 to 11 years-old on Vaccines.gov, the federal website where people around the country can find a coronavirus vaccine near them.

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Kids and the COVID vaccine: 10 things to know

BY Charles Duncan

Children as young as 5 can now get a COVID-19 vaccine.

This week, Pfizer passed the final hurdles to give its coronavirus vaccine to 5 to 11-year-olds. Kids 12 and up were already able to get vaccinated.

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Milwaukee is giving out rewards for second COVID-19 vaccine doses. Here's why the full vax matters

BY Maddie Burakoff
UPDATED 10:40 AM ET Nov. 03, 2021

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Health Department is giving a nudge to those in the city who are still half-vaxxed against COVID-19.

Starting last week, any city of Milwaukee resident who gets their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna at one of the health department’s clinics — the Northwest Health Center, the Southside Health Center, or the recently launched Menomonee Valley COVID-19 site — has been eligible for a $25 U.S. Bank gift card.

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LOCAL RESOURCES
Symptoms

The 2019 novel coronavirus may cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms like:

  • cough
  • fever
  • trouble breathing and
  • pneumonia

The CDC believes symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus.

(Source: CDC)