The Wisconsin Department of Health Services will now be including statistics on the spread of the new Delta COVID-19 variant in the state.
This comes after state health officials expressed concern about the variant's spread during a press briefing on Tuesday.
DHS will now be including the Delta variant in its variant tracking section of its COVID-19 dashboard.
As of Wednesday, DHS said 26 cases of the variant have been discovered in Wisconsin.
The variant was first identified in India, and has since become the dominant variant in the United Kingdom.
Health officials say the new variant spreads more rapidly and easily compared to the original strain, but it remains to be seen if it causes more severe side effects. But officials do confirm the approved COVID-19 vaccines - from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson - have proven to be effective defenses against the Delta and other variants.
DHS is following the lead of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which officially classified the B.1.617.2 variant as the "Delta" variant on Monday. The CDC also upgraded the variant from a "variant of interest" to a "variant of concern."
The health department said it will be updating its Delta variant tracker weekly starting this Thursday.
DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake emphasized that vaccination is the key to fighting the spread of coronavirus variants.
"Wisconsin continues to report an increasing proportion of COVID-19 cases across the state that are variants of concern,” Timberlake said in a statement Wednesday. “We urge Wisconsinites to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by getting vaccinated. The sooner people get vaccinated against COVID-19, the less opportunity for the virus to keep mutating.”
As of Wednesday, the DHS' COVID-19 dashboard identified 2,782 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant; 56 cases of the B.1.351 variant, 622 cases of the B.1.427/B.1.429 variant and 198 cases of the P.1 variant.
The previous variants are known to spread more quickly than the original strain, and some studies suggest some variants lead to more severe symptoms - but the DHS acknowledges on its website that additional studies are needed to confirm this.