Since the peak of COVID-19, when 2,277 patients were hospitalized in the state on Nov. 17, 2020, Wisconsin hospitalizations have been falling steadily, and on June 25, 2021, hospitalizations fell below 100 statewide, the lowest point since WHA began tracking hospitalizations on April 2, 2020.
There are several reasons for this, but one is the increased number of Wisconsinites who have received their COVID-19 vaccination. According to state data updated July 6, 50.5% of the state’s population, or 2,939,739 Wisconsinites, have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 47.6%, or 2,772,554 Wisconsinites, have completed their vaccination series. While this is great progress, vaccinating even more individuals in Wisconsin will provide greater assurance that COVID-19 hospitalization rates remain low.
The WHA Information Center (WHAIC) is dedicated to collecting, analyzing and disseminating complete, accurate and timely data and reports about charges, utilization, quality and efficiency provided by Wisconsin hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers and other health care providers. To that end, a recent analysis of inpatient hospital claims shows an encouraging trend of decreased hospitalizations by age group following vaccine availability, indicating a correlation between vaccine administration and reduced COVID-19 symptoms resulting in hospital care.
Data show that overall, the vaccination process has reduced admissions and specifically has reduced the percent of COVID hospitalizations among the state’s older population. Wisconsin began offering vaccines to residents over age 65, for example, on January 25, 2021, and immediately began to see a significant reduction in hospitalizations for all ages over 70.
Overall COVID-19 hospitalizations have been dropping, and the age makeup of those in the hospital has been shifting from the older population (65+), which had access to early vaccination and an impressive uptake of the vaccine (85% of Wisconsinites 65 and older have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination), to the younger populations, which did not have access to the vaccine until later and have not been seeking vaccination as rapidly.
According to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article dated June 28, 2021, nearly all Wisconsinites who recently have died of COVID-19 were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated. Specifically, Wisconsin Department of Health Services spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt said, “Between March 1 and June 24, 95% of confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths were among those who weren't fully vaccinated.” Much more than a number, the family members, friends and loved ones of the 7,289 Wisconsinites lost to this disease reflect the true toll COVID has taken on Wisconsin, underscoring the continued resolve needed to beat the virus.
Wisconsin hospitals and health systems have been on the front lines of COVID-19 for the past 15 months. Double-digit statewide hospitalizations are a welcome respite for hospitals caring for thousands of inpatients with COVID-19 through the fall of 2020 and hundreds of inpatients with COVID-19 through the winter and spring of 2021. Initial data results show the value of vaccination to sustain this welcome and much-needed relief from the COVID-19 pandemic.