Carla Durst, a nurse at New Glarus Home, gets a COVID-19 shot Dec. 28, the first day staff and residents at some of Wisconsin's nursing homes were able to be immunized against the coronavirus. "It's a very big day," said Patty Emberson, the facility's director of nursing. Steve Apps / Wisconsin State Journal
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Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

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Wisconsin has identified its first case of a coronavirus mutation that spreads more rapidly and easily than the version that has already infected more than half a million state residents and killed more than 5,200, the state Department of Health Services announced Wednesday. 

A patient in Eau Claire County tested positive for the variant, called B117, which was first discovered circulating in England in November and December — and has since spread elsewhere, including to the United States. Minnesota announced a cluster of cases on Saturday. 

The variant is not thought to cause more severe COVID-19 symptoms, but public health officials worry B117 could fuel bigger outbreaks, increasing the volume of sickness and number of deaths.

“We already know that COVID-19 is easily transmitted through respiratory droplets, and with this new variant appearing to be even more infectious, taking preventative measures like wearing a mask and physically distancing are even more important,” DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said in a statement

David Wahlberg has the full story for the Wisconsin State Journal.

Top Stories

Carla Durst, a nurse at New Glarus Home, gets a COVID-19 shot Dec. 28, the first day staff and residents at some of Wisconsin’s nursing homes were able to be immunized against the coronavirus. “It’s a very big day,” said Patty Emberson, the facility’s director of nursing. Steve Apps / Wisconsin State Journal

Worrisome new variant of COVID-19 coronavirus found in Wisconsin — Wisconsin State Journal

As coronavirus mutates, the world stumbles again to respond — The New York Times

‘If I don’t go to work, who’s going to save these people?’: Wisconsin respiratory therapist dies from COVID-19 after months helping patients — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Madison health leaders seek ways to build trust for COVID-19 vaccine in communities of color — WPR 

Feds allocate Wisconsin 187K more COVID-19 vaccine doses — WPR 

Biden team sees risks in Trump decision to widen vaccine pool — The Washington Post 

Racine Unified weighs tough decisions: To bring kids back to buildings or stay virtual? — The Journal Times 

‘The choice is ours’: Panel discusses COVID-19 and schools — Cap Times 

Winnebago County restaurants face food permit suspensions over COVID-19 — Beloit Daily News 

U.P. county is refusing to enforce COVID-19 restrictions from Whitmer — Detroit Free Press

What are we missing? And how are you coping? Help us provide critical information and accountability by filling out this form or emailing us at tips@wisconsinwatch.org.

Quotable

“No one should worry that there is going to be a single catastrophic mutation that suddenly renders all immunity and antibodies useless. … It is going to be a process that occurs over the time scale of multiple years and requires the accumulation of multiple viral mutations. … It’s not going to be like an on-off switch.”

Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, as quoted by The New York Times

“At this point, I’ve largely written the year off from a traditional education standpoint. … Our focus is no longer on making sure our kid ‘keeps up’ and gets good grades. Our focus is on helping my child maintain relationships with friends and family and good mental health.”

Wauwatosa mom Sarah Fowles, as quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Data to note

WisContext offers these visualizations of Wisconsin COVID-19 infections, deaths and hospitalizations. 

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services on Wednesday reported a seven-day average of 30 new daily COVID-19 deaths. 

Public health officials continue to urge Wisconsinites to wear masks and practice physical distancing until vaccinations are more widely distributed.

Calculate your exposure risk

In Wisconsin, even small gatherings can carry a big risk of exposure to the coronavirus, according to a nationwide tool that estimates the danger by the size of gathering and county in which it is held. Data scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Stanford University developed the tool, which you can find here.

Resilient Wisconsin

People helping others and showing resilience during this time of anxiety. Send suggestions by tagging us on social media — @wisconsinwatch — or emailing us: tips@wisconsinwatch.org

Local organization helps Latino students who are facing challenges amidst the pandemic — TMJ4 News

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