WisPolitics, WisBusiness Health Care Report for June 16

WisPolitics, WisBusiness Health Care Report for June 16

The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered each day in Wisconsin continues to decrease steadily, according to the latest data from the Department of Health Services. 

Providers administered 5,942 doses of vaccine on Tuesday, which is down from the peak of 92,472 daily doses at the beginning of April. As of today, 49.2 percent of state residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 44.6 percent have completed their vaccine series.

The DHS dashboard shows that 84 percent of residents who are 65 or older have been vaccinated for COVID-19, while lower age ranges have lower vaccination rates. They range from 66.4 percent for residents between the ages of 55 and 64, to 24.8 percent for residents between the ages of 12 and 15.

New confirmed cases and COVID-19 deaths in the state continue to decline as well. But 27 counties in Wisconsin still have a high activity level for the disease, while 42 have a medium activity level. Just three counties in the state have a low activity level for the virus.

See the latest state vaccination numbers here.

DHS is now tracking a variant of the COVID-19 virus that could spread more quickly than the original strain

According to a release, scientists don’t know if this Delta variant has any difference in disease severity. DHS has identified 26 cases of the variant strain in Wisconsin since April and will begin publishing related findings on a weekly basis.

The Delta variant was recently upgraded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from a “variant of interest” to a “variant of concern,” meaning it could pose a greater threat.

DHS says certain therapeutics such as antibody treatments could be less effective against the Delta strain due its “unique mutations.” And lab studies have found antibodies created in the body may also be less effective against this strain. Still, available COVID-19 vaccines have been found to be effective against it.

“Wisconsin continues to report an increasing proportion of COVID-19 cases across the state that are variants of concern,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “We urge Wisconsinites to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by getting vaccinated.”

Rural health clinics in the state are set to receive $10.9 million in federal funding for COVID-19 testing and response efforts, according to a release from U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse. 

“As we turn the corner on this pandemic and vaccines continue to roll out, it’s more important than ever to be giving our Rural Health Clinics the funding they need to continue fighting off this virus, getting shots in people’s arms, and keeping Wisconsinites safe and healthy,” Kind said.

The release shows 109 different clinics in Wisconsin will each get $100,000 to expand COVID-19 testing resources for rural residents, as well as other local programs aimed at reducing the spread of the virus.

Dr. Susan Turney, CEO of Marshfield Clinic Health System, says the increased funding recognizes the important role these clinics play in rural areas, which often have shortages of health care professionals. Medical care at these locations is often provided by physicians assistants or nurse practitioners, according to the state Department of Health Services.

“Ensuring care as close to home as possible is a foundational element of our approach to caring for communities across Wisconsin,” she said in a statement. “These funds will make a meaningful difference in the lives and well-being of those we serve.”

See a recent story related to rural health care in Wisconsin here.

The Alzheimer’s Association is thanking the Joint Finance Committee for creating a statewide dementia care specialist program.

As part of the ongoing budget process, JFC has voted to fund 18 additional dementia specialists at County Aging and Disability Resource Centers and seven more tribal dementia care specialist positions. The program expansion is a cost-effective way to provide in-home care for Alzheimer’s patients, the Alzheimer’s Association said.

The increase in DCS programs would help more than 120,000 Wisconsinites living with Alzheimer’s, said Michael Bruhn, Alzheimer’s Association senior director of public policy.

Also, funding for the Alzheimer’s Family and Caregiver Support Program would increase by $250,000 per year. The JFC budget proposals have yet to be reviewed by the full state Legislature and Gov. Tony Evers.

St. Croix Hospice has added a new location in Hudson, offering end-of-life care for more patients in western Wisconsin. 

“Our expert clinical teams live in the communities they serve, which means they’re readily available to provide consultations, admissions and care for local patients and families in and around the Hudson community,” said CEO Heath Bartness.

Hospice care aims to improve quality of life for terminally ill patients, rather than focusing on curing their illness. According to a release, that can include physical care as well as emotional and even spiritual counseling.

Aside from Wisconsin, St. Croix Hospice now has facilities in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.