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MADISON — Citing nationwide high levels of respiratory viruses, including influenza (flu), COVID-19 and RSV, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) on Thursday urged all residents to get all recommended vaccines as we embark on the holiday season.

The 2022-23 fall/winter season “has the potential to be severe, especially for young children and older adults,” the DHS stated in a news release. On Wednesday, the agency issued an alert to healthcare providers noting “significant increases” in hospitalizations and urging patients showing respiratory illness symptoms to be tested for COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses.

“Wisconsin hospitals are already seeing an alarming number of hospitalizations due to respiratory illnesses,” DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said in a news release. “It is essential for Wisconsinites to get their updated COVID-19 booster and annual flu vaccine to protect their health, especially with the holiday season right around the corner.”

All Wisconsinites ages 6 months and older can get their COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time. Everyone 5 years and older should also get an updated COVID-19 booster when eligible. The updated COVID-19 booster provides increased protection against Omicron variants which cause most of the current COVID-19 cases. According to DHS statistics, fewer than 15 percent of Wisconsin residents have received an updated COVID-19 booster.

Holiday celebration precautions

In addition to getting all recommended vaccines, the DHS recommends that Wisconsinites should take additional steps when planning holiday celebrations. That’s because respiratory viruses spread more easily when people are gathered indoors.

  • If you are feeling sick, get tested. Talk to a doctor about getting tested for COVID-19, influenza, RSV, or other respiratory viruses.
  • If you’re sick, stay home. Especially if you test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19, flu, or other illnesses. This helps protect others, especially those who are most vulnerable. Consider connecting virtually or rescheduling activities so you can celebrate safely.
  • Check your COVID-19 Community Level for information about the amount of severe illness in your community before any holiday celebration. If your COVID-19 Community Level is high, wear a well-fitting mask or respirator when you are inside public places around others.
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water to help prevent the spread of all respiratory illnesses and cover coughs and sneezes to avoid spreading germs.

Find more information about COVID-19 testing on the DHS website. If you need assistance accessing other health care or finding a vaccine provider in your community, call 211 or 877-947-2211.

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The Racine County Eye and Kenosha Lens is committed to publishing the most current and accurate information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in our Coronavirus section. View both the Racine County COVID-19 Dashboard and Kenosha County COVID-19 Dashboard offering real-time (updated Monday – Friday) statistical reporting for Racine and Kenosha Counties. Subscribe today to stay up-to-date with local news.

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Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...