MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee County has returned to the yellow zone for COVID-19 community levels, according to Dr. Ben Weston.
Weston is the Chief Health Policy Advisor for Milwaukee County. He shared the news on Twitter Thursday, saying the case rate was what pushed Milwaukee County over from green to yellow.
He said the county is up from 158 cases per 100,000 people to 206 per 100,000. The threshold for the yellow zone is 200. Weston also said hospitalizations are up from 6.1 per 100,000 to 6.8 per 100,000.
Watch health officials' press conference on Friday:
With the change from green to yellow, Weston said vaccines and boosters are critical and urged people to mask indoors to protect those who may be more vulnerable.
"We are in a dynamic situation and so too must our response be dynamic," Weston said in his Tweet.
UPDATE: #Milwaukee County now officially in medium 🟡 for #COVID19 community level.— Ben Weston MD MPH 😷 💉 (@BenWWeston) May 5, 2022
💉vacc and 🚀booster are critical.
protect vulnerable with 😷🍃📏 indoors
🧪testing & 💊treatment if sick
We are in a dynamic situation and so too must our response be dynamic.
Starting Friday, masking requirements will move to the “medium” level. The biggest change that means is that masking will be required at the Courthouse for employees interacting with members of the public and for all visitors.
Read the Milwaukee County mask changes below:
"We certainly see our trend going upward. When we look at hospitalization, we see a bit of an uptick,” said Weston on Thursday.
He says the increase is coming from the omicron subvariant.
"It certainly is driven by this variant, this BA.2 variant. It is more contagious than the original omicron variant. That is the majority of cases right now. That is the majority of cases in Wisconsin and Milwaukee County right now," according to Weston.
But that isn't the only variant out there. Dr. Greg Poland, an infectious disease expert who heads up the vaccine research group at Mayo Clinic, is concerned about the BA.2 variant and other new variants BA.4 and BA.5 that have been popping up in South Africa, where they are seeing a surge.
"We now have significantly more contagious variants,” said Dr. Poland.
On top of that, he says just because you had COVID in the past or you are vaccinated, doesn't mean you aren't at risk.
"With time, whether you had immunity due to prior infection or to vaccination, or both, that immunity wane is not as effective in the face of these new variants,” said Dr. Poland.
The World Health Organization has added these variants to the list they are monitoring.
As for here in Milwaukee, Dr. Weston says as cases spread, we don't need to take extreme measures right now, but we need to remember COVID hasn't gone away.
“We need to be cautious. If you are going into a setting where it is crowded and the ventilation is poor, you want to think about wearing a mask,” said Dr. Weston.
Both doctors say just as N95 masks were recommended when omicron numbers were spiking, they are again recommending getting a high quality N95 mask to wear indoors.