By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin recorded the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in two months on Thursday, leading to new warnings from state health officials about the growing spread of more contagious variants and a renewed call for everyone to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
The seven-day average of new cases was twice as high as a month ago.
“There’s a danger of this pandemic getting out of control,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the state’s chief medical officer.
State health officials urged people to not only get vaccinated but to continue wearing masks, frequently washing hands and maintaining a social distance to slow the virus spread.
“We are not ready to go back to life pre-COVID,” Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. “We are not ready for huge, mass gatherings yet. We need to be cautious as we move forward.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court last week repealed the statewide mask mandate, but health officials stressed Thursday that they should still be worn even if not required by local ordinances.
“The worst thing in the world we can do right now is say no mandate, no mask,” Willems Van Dijk said. Westergaard saying not wearing masks now, just because there is no order, would be a “grave mistake.”
Wisconsin recorded 1,046 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the most in a single day since Feb. 11. The seven-day average of cases was 733, the highest since mid-February and double what it was a month ago. There have been 369 confirmed cases of four more contagious variants, and within two weeks if it’s not the case already, the B117 variant first identified in the United Kingdom will be the dominant strain, Westergaard said.
On the vaccine front, 35% of the state’s population had received at least one dose of vaccine while just shy of 22% had completed the vaccine series, according to the state health department.
Everyone in the state became eligible for the vaccine on Monday. To date, 77.5% of people over age 65 have received at least one dose and more than 66% are fully vaccinated.
“As s a state we are moving in the right direction” on vaccines, Willems Van Dijk said.