COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Wisconsin, just over a week after the state's Supreme Court knocked down the statewide mask mandate.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports the weekly average number of cases rose to 733 on Thursday. That average has increased almost every day since bottoming out on March 30, when the DHS reported a weekly average of 378.
State health officials say the trend is especially concerning with new variants of the virus becoming more common. Though the variants have not become the dominant strain in the state, confirmed cases are increasing. As of Thursday, the DHS reports 148 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, and 216 cases of the B.1.427/B.1.429 variant.
The B.1.1.7 or United Kingdom variant has been spreading for months in Wisconsin. The B.1.427/B.1.429 was first detected in California, and its classification was added to the DHS' COVID-19 dashboard on Thursday. The department wrote in a statement Thursday that "these strains were recently upgraded from variants of interest to variants of concern."
A number of issues may be leading to the upward trajectory of cases in Wisconsin. The state's Supreme Court struck down the statewide mask mandate on March 31, a decision that in effect tasks local health departments and businesses with deciding if residents need to wear a mask while in public places.
Another concern health officials have is the increase in cases in young people. There were 247 new cases this week in people younger than 18. That's more than any other age group.
Spring break also just concluded for students, with some likely bringing back the virus from other states. Many school districts as well as some universities have resumed in-person learning.
There is good news to report, though. More than 2 million Wisconsin residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, DHS reports. That's 35 percent of the state's population.
About 32 percent of Milwaukee County residents have received at least one dose, and about 18 percent are fully vaccinated, according to DHS data. Milwaukee County's vaccination rates are comparable to those in Washington, Kenosha and Racine counties, and a bit less compared to Waukesha and Ozaukee counties.