by Emmitt B. Feldner
for The Beacon
SHEBOYGAN — “Our systems are at the point of being overwhelmed, but there is hope.”
That was Sheboygan County Health and Human Services Director Matthew Strittmater summary of the county’s COVID-19 situation in his update to the County Board Tuesday Jan 18.
“There is a tremendous level of pandemic activity at this point,” in the county, state and nation, Strittmater told the board.
That included the highest single-day number of confirmed cases of COVID in the county Saturday, Jan. 15 – 617.
“We’re seeing our highest daily numbers of hospitalized and infected (people), higher than at any point,” Srittmater continued.
That has the county in the highest transmission level.
Additionally, hospitals in southeastern Wisconsin have reached 95 percent capacity, “The highest impact ever in our local hospitals,” Strittmater said.
That is all due to the spread of the latest COVID variant, the omicron variant.
Strittmater said experts have characterized the latest variant as “staggeringly transmissible.”
But Strittmater said there are reasons for optimism among the climbing numbers.
For the most part, he told the supervisors, “(Omicron) seems to be milder and seems to be resolving sooner.”
That has helped to slightly mitigate the strain on local health care systems, as hospital stays are typically shorter in duration.
“The very, very positive news is that the things we have been saying all along do make difference,” Strittmater said.
“They work,” he said of vaccination, masking, social distancing and isolation.
“The preponderance of studies show that masking works,” to help slow the spread of the disease, Strittmater said.
In the county, 61.5 percent of residents are vaccinated.
“Certainly, there are vaccinated people ending up in the hospital, but at nowhere near the number or the percentage of unvaccinated people,” Strittmater noted.
Strittmater made the report in place of Public Health Officer Starrlene Grossman, who typically updates the board on COVID.
He appeared remotely at a board meeting that had more members attending remotely than in person.