MILWAUKEE — New variants and rising COVID case numbers are causing concern in Milwaukee County. The chief health policy advisor of Milwaukee County, Dr. Ben Weston, says this area is on the verge of changing from low to medium levels of community spread.
"We certainly see our trend going upward. When we look at hospitalization, we see a bit of an uptick,” said Weston.
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.