With COVID-19 still raging, there’s finally a glimmer of hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight as local and state officials begin discussing vaccine procedures.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said that he had an extensive discussion on Thursday with state officials about distributing the vaccine.
Early estimations are that Wisconsin initially would receive 50,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine once approval is granted.
“None of this is etched in stone and can change on a daily basis,” Barrett said in a virtual meeting with reporters on Thursday afternoon. “I just want to set expectations because I think there are a lot of people who are interested in getting vaccinated. I want people to understand that our front-line healthcare workers should be at the front of the line because they are the ones that are putting their lives on the line for the rest of us.”
The state’s healthcare workforce numbers about 450,000.
People in long-term care and assisted living facilities, which total about 150,000, should also be at the front the line for a vaccine, Barrett said.
“I would not be surprised if we had a fast turnaround in approval,” Barrett said. “If that were to happen then the next stage is getting the vaccines out to the public, not just in Wisconsin but throughout the nation. This is where we start facing some real challenging predicaments.”
There is optimism surrounding a potential vaccine but “this is not going to be an overnight, flip the switch, this problem is solved” situation, Barrett warned.
“This is going to be a months-long process to get these out,” Barrett said. “I think people who want to be vaccinated should understand that. Then there’s the whole other group that hates the vaccines, which we are going to have to work with as well, because the vaccine becomes more effective the more people take it.”
As of Thursday, Milwaukee County has reported 70,273 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 699 deaths tied to the pandemic since its start in March.
“Much as the rest of the state, Milwaukee County is in a moment of stability with regard to trends in cases and hospitalizations,” Milwaukee County’s Emergency Management Medical Director Dr. Ben Weston said. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case with deaths as we continue to see record days, both locally and for the state. In fact, in just the last month we saw 30 percent of all the COVID deaths since the pandemic began.”
Barrett pointed to an unexpected decline in testing at the free community sites in Milwaukee County following the Thanksgiving break, with 1,167 being tested at the Miller Park site, down considerably from the daily totals leading into the holiday. Testing of 564 people took place at the Milwaukee Health Department’s Northwest Health Center and 284 at the Southside Health Center.
“I was a little surprised when I saw the numbers for Miller Park (on Wednesday),” Barrett said.