Here’s the latest update on COVID-19 in Milwaukee and the resources you need to combat it.
Enrollment period opens for health care plans
The coronavirus pandemic has prompted federal officials to open up a special enrollment period for the health care plans provided by the Affordable Care Act through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is meant to provide a marketplace of low-cost health plans for Americans. From Feb. 15 to May 15, those interested can apply to get a health insurance plan through Healthcare.gov.
The enrollment period originally ended on Dec. 15, but the Biden administration has opened up the enrollment period.
Those interested can visit Healthcare.gov, where they can create an account and find a plan that fits their needs.
Enrollment benefits will start on the first day of the month following successful enrollment. For instance, someone who applies on Feb. 22 should receive benefits starting March 1.
Those interested can also visit Wiscovered.com to find help enrolling in Obamacare health plans as well as BadgerCare Plus and other plans. The hotline to speak to an expert in Milwaukee is (414) 400-9489.
More contagious UK variant strain reported in Milwaukee
The highly contagious UK variant strain of COVID-19 was found in Milwaukee on Jan. 28, officials announced last week.
The strain, known scientifically as B.1.1.7., is one of five cases in the state and is expected to be spread 70% more easily than the base strain of the virus.
Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for the Milwaukee County Department of Emergency Management, said the UK strain is doubling its number of cases in the United States every 10 days.
Weston said it could become the dominant strain in the United States. But precautions remain the same: social distancing, wearing masks and washing your hands.
“It can be softened through vaccination efforts and it can be blunted through personal precautions,” Weston said.
Despite being more contagious, current coronavirus vaccines are believed to be effective against the UK strain.
State to launch new COVID vaccine registry
The state Department of Health Services is developing a new registry to help Wisconsinites get connected for COVID-19 vaccines.
The registry has a hard launch date of March 1. Participants will be asked to answer a number of questions to determine eligibility. If they are found to be eligible, the vaccine registry will then connect them to local vaccinators if appointments are available.
If there are no appointments, they will be placed on a waitlist. Those who are found to be ineligible will also be placed on the waitlist.
The registry can also provide updates for those waiting to receive their second dose and help monitor any side effects from the vaccine.
As new phases approach, officials emphasize eligibility does not mean availability
On March 1, Phase 1B of the state’s vaccine eligibility will expand to teachers, essential workers in contact with the public and those in congregate care facilities.
However, demand is still outpacing supply significantly, particularly in Milwaukee County. Despite officials asking for more vaccines every week, they are still receiving insufficient doses.
Greenfield Health Commissioner Darren Rausch said the 11 health departments across Milwaukee County received about 35% of what they requested last week.
Interim Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson said during a media briefing Milwaukee ordered 4,000 vaccines last week and received 2,000.
Rausch said without an increase in vaccine supply, expanding eligibility could lead to “a result of frustration, mistrust and confusion” from eligible groups.
Vaccine rollout data
Weston said Milwaukee County has vaccinated about 10% of its population, compared with the state average of 13%.
As of Feb. 19, 94,269 people in Milwaukee County had received the vaccine. This includes 36% of the 65+ population, which amounts to 47,107.
The state of Wisconsin has fully vaccinated 288,747 people with both doses of the vaccine. The state has administered at least one dose to 761,336 people.
What you should know about the coronavirus vaccine
How you can help friends and loved ones who test positive
What’s it like to be vaccinated?
Where to get free masks
To obtain a free mask, residents can visit these sites:
- The Northwest Health Center, 7630 W. Mill Rd., is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- The Southside Health Center, 1639 S. 23rd St., is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
NNS reporters also gathered a list of where to buy locally made masks if you’re looking to show some local business love when masking up.
Check the City of Milwaukee Health Department’s website for the most updated facts and answers to questions about the mask ordinance.
Resources to know
Look here for up-to-date statistics on COVID-19 in the county. More precautions on how to stay safe and information on COVID-19 can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
Contact your health provider, call IMPACT 2-1-1 or take a look at the county’s testing site map to find a testing center near you. The free community testing sites at the Northwest Health Center, 7630 W. Mill Rd., and Southside Health Center, 1639 S. 23rd St., are now open and operating. American Family Field (formerly Miller Park), 1 Brewers Way, is also open as an effective testing site.
For more information on testing, including how to identify symptoms and when you should get tested, visit TestUpMKE.com. Available in English, Spanish, Hmong, Burmese and Arabic.
For more information on vaccine distribution and where to find it, visit HealthyMKE.com. Available in English, Spanish, Hmong, Burmese and Arabic.
Check out our continuing coronavirus coverage.
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