MILWAUKEE COUNTY — As hospitals are pushed to the edge trying to care for all patients, health officials say Milwaukee County's current COVID-19 trends are about the same as a year ago.
During a briefing on Tuesday, Milwaukee County chief health policy advisor Dr. Ben Weston said the comparison is true for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
"The difference this year is that we're on an incline, a dramatic incline, that will be made even more prominent with the rise of omicron," Dr. Weston said.
Milwaukee County is averaging 472 new cases per day and six deaths, which is similar to what the county averaged a year ago.
In a first for the state since the pandemic began, a child under the age of nine has died from COVID-19, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Another hospital system pleaded for people to help mitigate the virus.
"All hospitals throughout Milwaukee are short-staffed and are experiencing the stresses of surging," said Dr. Chad Craig, chief medical officer at Ascension Wisconsin.
State data showed 60 percent of hospitals and 78 percent of ICUs are at peak capacity.
To combat the virus' hold, President Joe Biden announced several steps to address the dire situation this winter, including making half a billion at home rapid tests available to Americans for free starting in January.
"I think that's it's going to be critical. Health officer Rausch talked earlier about equity issues and that's a major equity issue. Home rapid tests are relatively inexpensive, but we're talking $5 (to) $10 a test which exclude a large portion of our community," Dr. Weston said.
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