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Unvaccinated nearly 9 times as likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 in Wisconsin

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Finch and colleague rotating patient (copy)

Staff prepare to rotate a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit last week at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital. It takes two nurses to rotate a patient, which is done every two hours, and five people to put someone on their stomach, which can prevent fluid from pooling and the heart from pushing on the lungs.

Wisconsin residents not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 were 3.9 times more likely to test positive for the disease in August than those fully vaccinated, 8.6 times more likely to be hospitalized for it and 10.6 times more likely to die from it, the state Department of Health Services said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the state reported 3,426 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily total since Jan. 7, for a daily average of 1,864 cases, the highest since Jan. 18. The state reported 20 COVID-19 deaths, for a daily average of 15, the highest since February.

In August, there were 1,413.7 COVID-19 cases, 98.5 hospitalizations and 11.7 deaths per 100,000 people not fully vaccinated, the state health department said. Among those fully vaccinated, there were 360.7 cases, 11.5 hospitalizations and 1.1 deaths per 100,000.

It was the second time the state released such data. Last month, officials said that in July, unvaccinated people were nearly three times as likely to be infected with COVID-19, nearly four times as likely to be hospitalized for it and 11 times as likely to die from it as those fully vaccinated. The figures are age-adjusted because vaccination rates vary among age groups.

A Kaiser Family Foundation report Tuesday said the preventable costs of treating unvaccinated patients in hospitals nationwide was $5.7 billion in June, July and August.

Some “breakthrough” infections, in people fully vaccinated, are expected because no vaccine is 100% effective, health officials say. The more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, combined with inadequate vaccination rates, has in recent months caused a COVID-19 surge, officials say.

Statewide, 93.3% of intensive care beds were being used by patients with COVID-19 and other conditions as of Wednesday, with more than half of hospitals saying their ICUs were at peak capacity, the state health department said.

The Wisconsin Hospital Association said 1,054 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, 321 of them in intensive care.

Among people 65 and older, hospitalizations for COVID-19 were 6.6 times higher in August among the unvaccinated than among the fully vaccinated, according to the state health department. The gap was higher for younger groups, including 11.1 times higher among ages 45 to 54, 14.7 times higher among ages 35 to 44 and 12.3 times higher among ages 25 to 34.

In Dane County, residents not fully vaccinated were 2.5 times more likely to be infected in August, Public Health Madison and Dane County recently said. In July, they were 2.1 times more likely to be infected and 2.3 times more likely to hospitalized for COVID-19, the department said.

Statewide, as of Wednesday, 55.9% of residents had received at least one dose of vaccine and 52.6% were fully vaccinated, the state health department said. Among adults, 66.9% have had at least one dose and 63.2% are fully vaccinated. Children younger than 12, who aren’t yet eligible for immunization, make up about 14% of the population.

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