NE Wisconsin Doctor: ‘I Just Hate To See Everybody Getting Sick When It’s Avoidable’

As Delta Variant Surges, Doctors Encourage Vaccination, Masks

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 virus particles
This electron microscope image made available and color-enhanced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Md., shows Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, orange, isolated from a patient. IAID/National Institutes of Health via AP

In Brown County, COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased by more than 100 percent over the last two weeks, says Dr. Sarah Lulloff from HSHS Medical Group.

She’s one of several northeast Wisconsin doctors who joined a press briefing Wednesday to talk about current public health recommendations.

New infections are increasing in the region and across Wisconsin. The state is averaging more than 1,400 new cases per day, health officials say.

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‘How The Heck Did We Get Here?’

It’s what a lot of people are asking, Lulloff said.

COVID-19 variants first started to emerge last fall, and now the highly contagious delta variant is responsible for more than 90 percent of cases in the United States, she said.

It’s looking like you’re going to be in one of two camps, said Dr. James Heise from Door County Medical Center.

“You’re either going to be vaccinated or you’re going to get sick,” he said.

People who haven’t been vaccinated account for the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations — 97 percent — but variants can pose a risk for vaccinated people too, doctors said.

More than 66 percent of Door County residents are vaccinated against COVID-19. That’s significantly higher than the rest of northeast Wisconsin or the statewide total of 51 percent.

Doctors Say The Vaccine Is Safe

Since the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s, scientists have been working to create a vaccine for coronaviruses, said Dr. Michael Landrum from Bellin Health. The COVID-19 vaccine didn’t come about overnight, and a huge infusion of funds from the government allowed drug companies to work on the vaccines with no financial risk, he said.

“The FDA application from Pfizer that was just approved was 300,000 pages long,” he said. “So they didn’t cut any corners in submitting all the data that were needed for the vaccine to be approved.”

The risk for side effects with the COVID-19 vaccine is lower than commonly prescribed drugs, including statins, Landrum said. There’s also significant data showing the vaccine is safe for pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant, he said.

“I just hate to see everybody getting sick when it’s avoidable,” he said, acknowledging that health care providers are tired amid a pandemic that’s lasted 18 months.

Don’t Discount Masks

While much of the attention recently has been on vaccines, doctors also encouraged residents of northeast Wisconsin to wear masks, especially when visiting crowded places.

Claire Paprocki from Brown County Public Health said there are no plans for a local mask mandate at this time.

And while Landrum doesn’t think COVID-19 will be eradicated, he thinks it could become more manageable thanks to an array of available public health tools.

“If we got vaccine protection and population immunity up to a high enough level, and there are also some developed therapeutics that we can give to patients with early infection, then I do think that rates would be substantially lower and life would feel pretty much back to normal,” he said.