A team of U.S. Navy health care personnel will go to Green Bay to provide support in local hospitals stretched thin by the latest resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 20-member team is being deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Gov. Tony Evers announced Tuesday and will be assigned to Bellin Health System, which operates hospitals and clinics in northeastern Wisconsin and upper Michigan.

Also Tuesday, Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) announced that nearly 150 cases of COVID-19 in the county have been caused by the new, rapidly spreading omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus that sparked the pandemic nearly two years ago. That’s up from just three cases connected to omicron identified five days earlier, on Dec. 16.

PHMDC Director Janel Heinrich said the sudden growth in cases was not surprising, given how rapidly omicron has spread elsewhere in the world. Further rapid spread of the virus variant is likely “in the coming days and weeks,” Heinrich said in a health department announcement. “We all need to be prepared and take action now so that we can preserve our hospital capacity and prevent severe outcomes.”

The ease with which omicron spreads increases the risk of COVID-19 when gathering indoors, the health department stated.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) issued a health advisory on Monday, warning the public to get vaccinated and get vaccination booster shots as soon as they are eligible.

The advisory urges people to wear properly fitting masks in gatherings with people outside their immediate household and to keep any gatherings very small, holding them outside or ensuring that air is well ventilated. It also urges the public to get tested for COVID-19 before gathering with others and to stay home when experiencing symptoms of illness.

The Dane County health agency has extended its mask requirement to Feb. 1. A lawsuit that challenges the authority of the Dane County health director to issue public health orders — an authority that is directly conferred by state law — is pending before the state Supreme Court.

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