Positive cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin on Wednesday were twice as high as a week ago and seven times as high as a month ago, fueled by the more contagious delta variant, leading state health officials to again urge everyone to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.
There were 792 new COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday, and the seven-day daily average was 478, up from 239 last week and 69 a month ago.
"To stop the spread, we need everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated now," said Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary of the state health department. "Increased spread also increases the danger of new variants developing and those new variants could be even more dangerous than the ones we have now."
As of Wednesday, just over 49% of the state was fully vaccinated. Since January, more than 98% of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin have been in people who are not fully vaccinated, the state health department said.
This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people who live in areas with substantial or high disease transmission wear masks while indoors, whether they are vaccinated or not.
That currently applies to 14 Wisconsin counties: Florence, Iron, Pepin, Bayfield, Sawyer, Buffalo, Oneida, Forest, Shawano, Adams, Calumet, Milwaukee, Waukesha and Racine.
Public Health Madison and Dane County issued a masking advisory Tuesday to encourage everyone ages 2 and up to wear facemasks inside public spaces, schools and when gathering indoors at private residences with members of other households. The county has not reinstituted a mask requirement since lifting it June 2.
There has been no statewide mask mandate in Wisconsin since the state Supreme Court struck one down in March, saying it went beyond the scope of what the state health department or governor could require.
Some communities across Wisconsin have issued new guidance mirroring the CDC's recommendations. There's no harm in wearing a mask to provide an extra layer of protection, whether it is required or not, Willems Van Dijk said.
"No matter where you live, if you are not vaccinated, please wear a mask," she said.