Health experts worry large gatherings to celebrate Bucks Championship could result in COVID-19 spike

NOW: Health experts worry large gatherings to celebrate Bucks Championship could result in COVID-19 spike

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee had its fun this past week, celebrating the Bucks' first NBA Championship in 50 years, but now health experts are worried Wisconsin will pay a price for those large gatherings, in COVID-19 infections.

Crowds as big as 300,000 people gathered in downtown Milwaukee to celebrate a win of a lifetime.

"A really exciting event," UW Health's Dr. Jeff Pothof said. "It's unfortunate that some folks will have not such a pleasant couple of weeks after that."

Milwaukee is currently averaging 50.7 cases per 100,000 people. That's the highest it's been since early June, according to Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson. 

"The Bucks celebrations this past week were incredible shows of pride and excitement for our city, but we know that large gatherings such as those happening in the Deer District can create an influx in positive COVID-19 cases," Johnson said.

The state's health leaders are anticipating the same thing.

"We are concerned," Wisconsin Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said. "We know people wanted to be jubilant and celebrate, but we know, as I said, half the state is fully vaccinated and so, half the state is not, and I assume the same applies to the people who are in the Deer District or in the arena."

Fiserv Forum policy requires all visitors to wear face coverings in the building.

There are a lot of variables that can affect how many people walk away with COVID-19. 

"We haven't had a pandemic like this before, we haven't had the Delta variant very long, which is much more contagious, and there just haven't been that many people all together," Pothof said.

Pothof said we won't know the true effect until it's too late.

"Will (the vaccination rate) be enough to stave off any big increases, hotspots of COVID-19? We don't know, but we will find out in the next week or two," Pothof said.

If people who attended the event are feeling any symptoms related to COVID-19, Pothof said getting tested is still the best way to prevent spreading the virus to others.

"Basically, if you feel like you're coming down with the flu, it's probably not the flu. It's probably COVID, a much bigger deal," Pothof said.

In Milwaukee, Northwest Health Center, Southside Health Center and American Family Field host community testing sites. For more information on hours of operation, click here.

In Racine, Festival Hall is a community testing site. For more information on hours of operation, click here.

In Kenosha, Kenosha County Job Center, Kenosha Community Health Center and UW-Parkside are community testing sites. For more information on hours of operation, click here.

In Waukesha, Village Primary Care and Summit Clinical Labs in New Berlin and Delafield are community testing sites. For more information on hours of operation, click here.

Milwaukee Health Department is tracking case numbers across the state as a result of these gatherings. 

Pothof said it's never too late to go and get the COVID-19 vaccine. It will make more events like the Bucks celebrations possible, without worry of future outbreaks.

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