Even with a COVID-19 vaccine rollout, both Wisconsin and the U.S. are reaching grim milestones

NOW: Even with a COVID-19 vaccine rollout, both Wisconsin and the U.S. are reaching grim milestones

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- More than 4,000 people in the U.S. died from COVID-19 on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University, marking Thursday the deadliest day yet. The record number of deaths come as Wisconsin and the rest of the country is spearheading a vaccine rollout.

Wisconsin DHS data show the state’s seen four record-breaking days for COVID-19 deaths in the last two months. While Milwaukee County is doing slightly better now, officials say recent trends are not pointing in the right direction.

“We are seeing what looks like a slight increase in COVID-19 cases countywide over the past week,” said Darren Rausch, health director of the Greenfield Health Department.

Rausch says it’s unknown whether the increase would be sustained. Health officials say Wisconsin and Milwaukee County have been in an up and down rollercoaster with numbers fluctuating, but it won’t be a smooth road ahead even with a vaccine rollout.

“A month and a half ago we were in a very difficult place. We’re in a little bit of a better place now but still a challenging one. We’re starting to see our percent positivity creeping up, we’re starting to see our testing not rising as much as we need,” said Dr. Ben Weston, an associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin who also serves as the medical director for Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

“The amount of vaccine allocated to Wisconsin is still very small, we’re only getting about 70,000 doses allocated to Wisconsin on a weekly basis,” said Rausch.

On Thursday, Dr. Weston received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. He says his collaboration with state and local health officials on getting the vaccine out as quickly as possible to the community is a main priority.

“When we get vaccines, our goal is get it into people’s arms as fast as possible and get our community protected as fast as we possibly can,” said Dr. Weston.

As of Friday, Jan. 8, projections from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations say more than 100,000 people in the U.S. could lose their lives within the next month.

Wisconsin DHS data show the state has also reached a grim milestone with more than 500,000 total COVID-19 cases and more than 5,000 total COVID-19 related deaths since the pandemic began. The state saw 244 COVID-19 deaths from Sunday, Jan. 3 to Friday, Jan. 8. 

Even with shocking numbers and new COVID-19 mutations being discovered, doctors say public health measures like masking, washing hands and distancing, combined with a vaccine rollout, offer some hope for the future.

“Even though we see these new variants, the hope is that this combination will lead to a significant reduction over the next several months,” said Dr. Mary Beth Graham, infectious disease expert at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“Certainly there are challenges to come, but it’s different than it was a month and a half ago, it’s different because of what I did today, because of the receipt of the vaccine,” added Dr. Weston.

Doctors say people should not relax efforts to curb spread. Health officials say potential increases in cases following the holidays would start to be seen this week and over the next couple of weeks.

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