Reading Time: 3 minutes
Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin Watch is a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on government integrity and quality of life issues, and we always provide our news for free.

You can read all of our coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage by signing up for our Wisconsin COVID-19 Update newsletter, and please consider becoming a member to support our nonprofit journalism. 

COVID-19 infections are dwindling across much of the United States — including Wisconsin — but highly contagious variants of the virus continue to spread in pockets of the country with low vaccination rates.

Examples include Smith County, Tennessee, where just 20% of people are fully vaccinated and COVID-19 hospitalizations have soared by nearly 700% over the past two weeks, Jesus Jiménez reports for The New York Times. And just 23% are fully vaccinated in Trousdale, Tennessee, where COVID-19 hospitalizations have skyrocketed by more than 700% during that stretch.

COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continue to trend downward in Wisconsin, where 43.4% of residents had completed the vaccine series as of Wednesday, with Dane County (60%), Door County (59.6%), Bayfield County (54.3%) and Iowa County (51.3%) leading the way. 

Wisconsin’s lowest full vaccination rates are in: Taylor (25.4%), Clark (25.5%), Rusk (28.7%) and Waushara (31.3%) counties. Those counties are not seeing surges like Tennessee. Infections have remained flat or continued to decrease in recent days.

Top Stories

Vials of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are seen during a free vaccination clinic on March, 9, 2021, run by The Hmong Institute at Life Center in Madison, Wis. She said the manufacturer allocates 10 doses per vial, but that there are often one or two extra doses that can be retrieved. During this clinic for Hmong and Southeast Asian adults 65 and over, there were initially 40 people signed up to receive the allocated shots, but volunteer nurses were able to get 10 more doses out of the vials, resulting in people being able to be called in quickly from the waitlist. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

In the U.S., hospitalizations are rising in areas with low vaccination ratesThe New York Times 

COVID-19 cases plummeting in Milwaukee but health officials say variants pose a threat to the unvaccinatedMilwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin Legislature to vote on ending extra unemploymentAssociated Press 

Hope, optimism abound as Stateline Area continues to reopen, reboundBeloit Daily News

No more masks required in Janesville public schoolsJanesville Gazette 

Rock County Courthouse plans to encourage, but no longer require, masksJanesville Gazette 

Wisconsin lawmaker compares museum’s mask policy to NazisAssociated Press 

Laborfest cancelled for second year due to pandemic concernsKenosha News

Quotable

“I think we got lucky, to be honest. …We’re being rescued by the vaccine.”

Nathan Grubaugh, an epidemiologist at Yale University, speaking to The New York Times

Data to note

Click on the image above to see Wisconsin DHS COVID-19 vaccine data, which is updated daily.

Here’s a look at the Department of Health Services’ vaccine dashboard, which showed Wednesday that 48.7% of Wisconsinites have received at least one vaccine dose, including 83.7% of those ages 65 and older. Meanwhile, 43.4% of Wisconsinites are fully vaccinated, including 79.8% of those older than 65. Racial disparities persist in distributing vaccines. The shares of Black, Hispanic and Native American residents to receive a dose remain below that of white residents. 

On Wednesday, the state DHS reported a seven-day average of 125 new daily infections, continuing a long-term downward trend in new cases. The state also reported 11 new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the full toll to 7,189. 

This Wisconsin Hospital Association reported that 170 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized statewide as of Tuesday. 

Find a vaccine site near you

DHS and the federal government have partnered with Vaccine Finder to help Wisconsinites find vaccinations. Vaccinations are often by appointment, but providers are increasingly offering walk-in options. In addition, people seeking COVID-19 shots can text their ZIP code to 438829 to find nearby vaccine providers.

COVID-19 fact-checking

Not sure if something you heard about COVID-19 is true? FactCheck.org offers this page full of explainers — and debunking of common distortions — about the disease to help you sort out fact from fiction.

Access to some stories listed in the Wisconsin COVID-19 Update may be limited to subscribers of the news organizations that produced them. We urge our readers to consider supporting these important news outlets by subscribing.

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.