In late June and early July, it seemed like the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic was over. The seven-day average for new COVID cases in Wisconsin dipped below 100 per day. Mask rules and crowd restrictions were lifted. Huge crowds packed Fiserv Forum and the Deer District to watch the Bucks win the NBA championship. Life was good again!
Alas, the arrival of the Delta variant brought another wave of COVID-19. The seven-day average of new cases rose to more than 1,700 per day in Wisconsin. The seven-day average of people hospitalized with COVID in Wisconsin rose from 83 in early July to 867 in late August.
The Delta variant is more transmissible than the original strain of the virus and is resulting in a surge of illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths, straining an overburdened health care system.
It’s frustrating to experience another COVID wave, especially because we now have the means to fight it, but many have resisted.
Of course, I am talking about the vaccines. While some who have gotten the vaccine have still gotten COVID, those have usually been less severe cases. The vast majority of people sick in the hospital with COVID, and dying from the virus, have not been vaccinated. That’s tragic, because the vaccine is free and has been available for several months.
The vaccines are the way out of this pandemic, but some continue to resist. For some it seems to be a political statement, expressing their right to not do what experts and government officials say they should. Others say they are worried about the safety of the vaccine, because it is so new.
Initially the vaccines had an emergency use authorization. But the FDA recently gave full approval to the Pfizer vaccine. Hopefully that gives more people confidence to get it.
As of early September, only 51.5% of Wisconsinites had completed the COVID vaccine series. That’s not enough, and it’s the reason the virus is running rampant in the state, mostly among the unvaccinated.
The miserable lockdowns of 2020 were unsustainable for our lives and our economy, and they are no longer necessary.
We just need more people to get vaccinated, and now businesses are taking the lead. Seeing a need to protect customers and coworkers, a growing number of businesses are requiring people working in their offices to get COVID vaccines, including Northwestern Mutual, ManpowerGroup and American Family Insurance. Numerous health care providers are also mandating the vaccine.
Proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID test is required to attend Summerfest, or shows by numerous Milwaukee performing arts organizations.
Delta Air Lines is raising health insurance premiums for unvaccinated employees, who are putting themselves at risk of big health insurance claims by not getting protected from the virus.
These businesses are taking the lead on the COVID vaccine push, and that’s a trend likely to continue until this pandemic is finally over.