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Wisconsin DHS: Stay home this July 4th weekend

State health officials are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases in young people, many connected to bars and gatherings.

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin's health officials are urging the public to stay home this Fourth of July weekend, as COVID-19 cases surge across the state.

According to a news release sent out by the Department of Health Services (DHS), nearly 20% of total coronavirus cases in Wisconsin were identified in the last two weeks. Half of all positive cases came in the last five weeks.

"This spike in cases is driven in part by an increase in infections among younger people," the release says.

Contact tracing has shown DHS that many of the cases can be traced back to bars.

“This message is especially important for younger people to hear,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement Thursday. “We know this is a time people like to celebrate with friends, but COVID-19 is still spreading in our state, and we need everyone to take the necessary precautions.”

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According to DHS, 14% of cases in early June reported attending a gathering or party, or meeting up with people, within two weeks of getting COVID-19. That's compared with 7% in early May.

DHS is asking people to stay home and follow best public health practices this holiday weekend because of the surge. 

"We're really anxious about things getting worse to the point where we risk being able to have normal, or closer to normal, activities later in the year," said Chuck Warzecha, Deputy Administrator for the department's Division of Public Health. 

Warzecha advises people to limit activities to within their immediate family. If not that, then he asks that they at least limit their groups to fewer than 10 people, practice social distancing and wear a mask. 

“23% of our total cases in Wisconsin are people in their 20s,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Compare that to our cases in early April when 11% of positive cases were in their twenties. In order to help decrease the infection rate in our state, we need younger Wisconsinites to take more precautions like staying home, physical distancing, and wearing cloth face coverings whenever possible.”

The Minnesota Department of Health has also been targeting young people in its messaging, with Commissioner Jan Malcolm saying Wednesday on a media briefing call, "You are not invincible and neither are your loved ones."

MDH has reported COVID-19 case clusters connected to Minnesota bars, and people ages 20-29 now make up the largest group of cases in the state.

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