COVID-19: Staying Safe in Your Community

On August 11, 2022, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it's streamlining its COVID-19 guidance to help people better understand their risk, how to protect themselves and others, what actions to take if exposed to COVID-19, and what actions to take if they are sick or test positive for the virus. DHS is currently reviewing CDC updates and will update our guidance accordingly.

Key Messages

  • COVID-19 Community Levels can help you make decisions to minimize the impact COVID-19 has on our health care systems, while also protecting those who are most at risk of severe illness.
  • Wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator in areas with high COVID-19 Community Levels.
  • With widespread access to vaccines, testing, and treatment options, we have more tools than ever before to prevent severe COVID-19 infection.
  • Staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines is the best way to prevent you from getting severely sick.

 

Two adults wearing masks doing yoga outdoors

With high levels of vaccination and population immunity, the risk of severe COVID-19 disease, hospitalization, and death has been greatly reduced. Although fewer Wisconsinites are at risk of severe disease, COVID-19 continues to spread in Wisconsin communities and pose a threat to Wisconsin’s most vulnerable populations. To stay protected against COVID-19, continue layering prevention strategies based on your COVID-19 Community Level and individual level of risk.

What are COVID-19 Community Levels?

COVID-19 Community Levels were developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help individuals and counties decide what COVID-19 preventative strategies to use.

All Wisconsin counties are assigned a weekly COVID-19 Community Level of “low”, “medium”, or “high” depending on:

  • How many hospital beds are being used due to COVID-19
  • New hospital admissions due to COVID-19
  • Total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area

Each COVID-19 Community Level has corresponding guidance that should be followed to minimize the impact COVID-19 has on individuals and health care systems.

Low COVID-19 Community Level

A Low COVID-19 Community Level means hospitals are seeing limited impacts of COVID-19, few people experiencing severe illness, and few people are testing positive for COVID-19 in a county.

  • Wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator in public indoor settings is not necessary.
  • Individuals, especially those who are immunocompromised or at increased risk of severe disease, may continue to wear a well-fitting mask or respirator if it makes them feel safer.

Medium COVID-19 Community Level

A Medium COVID-19 Community Level means hospitals are seeing some impacts of COVID-19, some people experiencing severe illness, and some people are testing positive for COVID-19 in your county.

  • Wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator in public indoor settings is not necessary for most people.
  • Consider additional COVID-19 precautions to stay healthy, like staying 6 feet away from others or gathering outdoors.

Special considerations:

If you are at high risk for severe illness and are in a county with a Medium COVID-19 Community Level, talk with your doctor about taking additional public health precautions, such as wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator and avoiding non-essential public indoor activities.

High COVID-19 Community Level

A High COVID-19 Community Level means local health care systems may become overwhelmed due to increased levels of severe disease. Individuals should take additional precautions to reduce strain on their local hospitals.

  • Wear a well-fitting mask or respirator in all public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status or individual risk level.
  • Strongly consider taking additional COVID-19 precautions to stay healthy, like staying 6 feet away from others or avoiding indoor gatherings.

Special considerations:

If you are at high risk for severe illness and are in a county with a High COVID-19 Community Level, talk with your doctor about taking precautions, such as using a COVID-19 self-test before gathering with friends and family or avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public.


Best practices for staying safe

Everyone, regardless of their COVID-19 Community Level or individual risk, should practice all of the following prevention strategies:

  • Get vaccinated and stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses.
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms or were exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • Avoid gathering with people outside of your household if you test positive for COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are recommended to quarantine. Follow instructions for isolation and quarantine. 
  • Consider using a self-test before gathering indoors.
  • Consider gathering outside or staying 6 or more feet away from people in indoor settings if you are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines or are at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19.

Understand the risks

The risk of participating in a certain activity depends on many factors that vary from person to person, place to place, and over time. That’s why it’s important to consider your own situation and the risks for you, your family, and your community. Here are some of the questions you can ask and consider:

We recognize some people have privileges and resources that allow them to choose how and when to interact with others while others do not due to underlying conditions, socioeconomic factors, or systemic racism. We must come together as a community to protect each other and continue to follow public health best practices to the best of our abilities to keep ourselves and our communities safe.


See your COVID-19 community level

COVID-19 community levels use vaccination coverage and other local information to help you make informed decisions.

 

Wisconsin line map with counties

Last Revised: July 26, 2022

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