MON AM News: DHS supporting recommendation on vaccine boosters for adults; Overdose deaths up nearly 22 percent over recent 12-month period

— The state Department of Health Services is backing the recommendation from federal health officials that all adults get a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine once they’re eligible. 

In recent months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first approved Pfizer booster shots for certain high-risk groups before approving boosters for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for certain groups as well. 

Following the CDC’s approval late last week, anyone aged 18 and older can get a booster dose at least six months after receiving their second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. And adults who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine two or more months ago are eligible for a booster dose of any of the COVID-19 vaccines, according to a DHS release. 

The agency also says boosters are “strongly recommended” for those aged 50 and older as the virus poses a greater risk to them. 

“The COVID-19 vaccines are an important tool for preventing the worst outcomes and slowing the spread of COVID-19, which is essential as many folks plan to gather together for the upcoming holiday season,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake in the release. “We encourage everyone ages 18 and older to join the over 840,000 Wisconsinites who have already gotten their booster or additional COVID-19 vaccine dose.”

Along with approving boosters for all adults following completion of the initial series, the CDC is also now allowing “mix-and-match” dosing for boosters. DHS says people can stick with the type of vaccine they first received, or get a different booster. 

More than 7.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have now been administered in the state, the DHS website shows. The number of doses being administered each day has also increased in October and November, with a larger increase early this month following the vaccines being authorized for children aged 5-11. But most of the increase is being driven by booster doses. 

As of Friday, 58.6 percent of the state’s population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 55.5 percent have completed the initial vaccine series. 

At the national level, 69.2 percent of the U.S. population have gotten at least one dose and 59.1 percent are fully vaccinated. The CDC says 17.6 percent of those who are fully vaccinated have received a booster dose. 

See the release: 

See the latest DHS figures on COVID-19 vaccination in Wisconsin: 

— The number of drug overdose deaths in Wisconsin reached 1,599 in the 12-month period ending in April, increasing nearly 22 percent over the prior year based on federal estimates. 

Over the same timeframe, the country overall is estimated to have experienced more than 100,000 overdose deaths for the first time during a 12-month period, for a nearly 29 percent increase. 

In line with the national trend, Wisconsin’s overdose deaths have been rising in recent years, the federal numbers show, particularly amid the ongoing pandemic. Earlier reports have also indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the opioid crisis. 

In the prior 12-month period ending April 2020, Wisconsin had 1,313 drug overdose deaths, estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. That number has largely been increasing year-over-year since at least 2015, with the exception of 2019 when it dipped slightly compared to the previous year. 

See the CDC estimates for state and national drug overdose deaths here: 

— DHS has announced $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds will be going to Covering Wisconsin, a navigator organization based at UW-Madison. 

The organization helps state residents find and apply for health insurance coverage, while also providing assistance with other aspects of getting health care. A release from DHS shows the funding will help support outreach efforts and expand enrollment assistance services. 

This year’s open enrollment period for plans ends Jan. 15.

“As Wisconsin health insurance Navigators, we provide year-round, free, education, and enrollment support to anyone who needs it,” said Allison Espeseth, director of Covering Wisconsin. “Our goal is to make finding health insurance accessible and easy, and to support the health and well-being of all the people of Wisconsin.”

See the release: 

— The state Public Service Commission is taking applications for the 2022 Medical Telecommunications Equipment Program and plans to award up to $1 million in grants this spring. 

The grant program provides funding for equipment used in telemedicine, aiming to support care access for rural or otherwise underserved areas and for people with disabilities. Funding for the program comes from the agency’s Universal Service Fund, which provides up to $500,000 per fiscal year for grants. 

In 2020, the PSC received 19 applications requesting over $1.2 million in funding, and ultimately provided $10 million through 16 grants. Seven of those recipients provided over $400,000 in matching funds. Grantees included community health centers, hospitals, health systems and medical foundations. 

Applications are due Feb. 10 for this round of funding, covering fiscal years 2022 and 2023. Matching funds are not required. 

“We’ve witnessed during the pandemic how vitally important it is for people to have access to their nurses and doctors and receive treatment remotely,” PSC Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq said in a release. “These grants break down barriers to health care access and give more flexibility to providers and patients.”

See a list of prior recipients: 

See program details: 

— Community organizations and tribal colleges in Wisconsin are receiving around $664,000 in grants from the USDA to support rural economic development, education, housing and health care access. 

Community Development Alternatives Inc and Stockbridge-Munsee Community and Couleecap Inc will be sharing $313,000 provided through the Housing Preservation Grant Program. Funding will help 49 low-income individuals make “health and safety repairs” to their homes. 

Meanwhile, the College of Menominee Nation is getting $175,500 through the Tribal College Initiative Grant for safety and facility renovations to the college’s Keshena campus, including HVAC and air conditioning upgrades, roofing, lighting, water heating and adding exterior doors with keyfobs for security. 

And the LCO Ojibwe College is also getting $175,500 through the grant initiative to make improvements to campus buildings including the Sustainable Agriculture Research Station. Two buildings will be upgrading HVAC systems with the funding to support winter classes and activities. 

“When we invest in housing, education and economic development in rural Wisconsin, we build opportunity and prosperity for the people who call our rural communities’ home,” said USDA Rural Development Wisconsin State Director Julie Lassa. 

See the release: 


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– AGC of Greater Milwaukee donates $30K to Milwaukee universities

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– Priskes win 2021 Leopold Conservation Award

– Wisconsin’s deer population is at a critical high

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– Clarios investing $3B in next decade to boost advanced-battery manufacturing for EVs, other vehicles


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