New state data shows jump in breakthrough cases, hospitalizations last month

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- New coronavirus data released by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows the case rates and hospitalizations for both unvaccinated and vaccinated people jumped last month. Health leaders attribute the spike in breakthrough cases to the more transmissible Delta variant.

The original strain of the virus transmits six cases from one infection, but the Delta variant transmits 30 cases from one infection, and it's spreading in Wisconsin.

Rebecca Hartman is fully vaccinated. She visited Wisconsin last week with her family and tested positive for the virus Aug. 13. She says, "I am grateful that I am vaccinated, and therefore I did not get as sick as I potentially could have been."

Hartman's breakthrough case is still having a major impact on her life. Her family is in quarantine during the last days of summer. She says, "My oldest daughter is actually not going to be able to start school on time, even though my children have not tested positive yet."

Across Wisconsin, the case rate for vaccinated people jumped nearly nine-fold from June to July. The hospitalization rate for breakthrough cases tripled.

Dr. Nasia Safdar is the medical director of infection control and prevention at UW Health. She says, "That's not necessarily a surprise, because as the population gets vaccinated, inevitably, the cases that occur, some of them will be in those who are vaccinated."

And health experts could see it coming. Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the chief medical officer at the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases, says, "We're bracing for the pandemic to get worse."

For now, the vaccines are largely effective at taming down symptoms caused by the Delta variant, but health leaders are especially concerned if the virus continues to mutate. Dr. Safdar says, "For Delta it was a little reassuring to find out the vaccines were still very effective against it. That may or may not be the case with whatever else comes around."

The doctors say for now, Delta is the predominant strain of the virus. Traci DeSalvo, the director of the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases, says, "We are seeing more cases among people who are vaccinated, fully vaccinated, with Delta, as compared to previous circulating strains of COVID-19."

Back home, Rebecca and her family will quarantine for a few more days, then look ahead. She says, "I am very surprised at how many breakthrough cases are happening right now, and I look forward to being able to get my third vaccine."

Even with the concern over breakthrough cases, the vaccines are helping because the numbers for unvaccinated people in Wisconsin are much worse. Last month, the hospitalization rate for unvaccinated people was nearly four times what it was for vaccinated people.

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