By Shereen Siewert

New data shows 1 in 500 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19 to date, while a segment of unvaccinated residents believe the government is using the vaccine to secretly put microchips in Americans.

As of Sept. 15, 665,870 people have died of Covid-19 in the U.S. alone, according to Johns Hopkins University data. According to the US Census Bureau, the US population as of April 2020 was 331.4 million.

The rate of people initiating vaccinations each day dropped compared to last week, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Health experts say vaccinations are the best source of protection against the virus and the majority of people hospitalized with and killed by Covid-19 are unvaccinated.

Locally at Aspirus, the state’s largest hospital system, about half of the patients admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 symptoms are in the intensive care unit, and the “vast majority” of admissions are unvaccinated patients. Jeff Wicklander, Aspirus Health Senior Vice President and Aspirus Wausau Hospital President, said patients are skewing younger, ranging in age from 27 to 82.

But persuading the unvaccinated to change their minds has been an uphill climb.

A July 15 poll offers some insight into the reasons why. The survey, conducted by YouGov and The Economist, reveals that one in five Americans believe there is a tracking device in the vaccine that allows the government to spy on citizens. Other fears center on potential side effects and political motivations.

“Vaccine rejection is higher among whites than it is among black and Hispanic Americans, higher in the Midwest and South than elsewhere in the country, and it is also greater among those with less education,” wrote Kathy Frankovic, detailing the survey results. “White people with less than a college degree are more than ten points more likely than white people with a college degree to say they will not be vaccinated. Their positions may never change. There is little this group believes could make them change their minds.”

Still, vaccine resistance in the U.S. is trending downward, despite the vocal minority that remains. The drop could be attributed to several factors including mandates by employers, restrictions for travel and entertainment venues and rising case counts, along with the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

In Wisconsin, there are days remaining to take advantage of the $100 COVID-19 Vaccine Reward Program. The program opened Aug. 20 and is available to anyone ages 12 and up in Wisconsin who gets their first dose of COVID-19 by Sunday.

Between August 20 and September 13, more than 114,900 Wisconsinites have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, said Gov. Tony Evers.

In order to receive the $100 reward, Wisconsin residents will need to fill out the form available at or call 844-684-1064 to register over the phone. Information submitted will be used to verify a valid first COVID-19 vaccine dose reported to the Wisconsin Immunization Registry (WIR) between August 20 and September 19.

Rewards cards will be mailed to the resident’s Wisconsin address and can take six to eight weeks to arrive. Registration for the program will remain open until September 30, 2021, but only those who receive their first COVID-19 vaccine dose between August 20 and September 19 are eligible for the $100 reward. Proof of insurance, I.D., or citizenship are not required.

Aaron Ruff, Marathon County Health Department Public Information Officer, issued a statement last week stating that local COVID-19 response teams are “critically over capacity.”

“While the Health Department will attempt to follow-up with individuals who test positive, review isolation recommendations, and determine close contacts, the response may be delayed,” the statement read. “You do not need to hear from the Health Department in order to begin isolation if you have a positive test or begin quarantine if you know that you are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19.”

Local schools are continuing to debate COVID-19 mitigation strategies as case counts rise. The Wausau School District on Wednesday reported 38 positive cases including 34 students, with 269 in quarantine. D.C. Everest is reporting 47 cumulative positive cases this fall, 25 of which are active. Mosinee, which only recently began publishing case data, is reporting 11 active cases.

For local data, see below.