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Wisconsin vaccine registry debuts with 1 county

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin launched an online registry Wednesday where people can sign up to receive the coronavirus vaccine if they are eligible and appointments are available near where they live, but so far only one health department is participating.

The registry was supposed to launch on March 1 but was delayed as those testing it worked to fix problems and migrate people on waiting lists into the new system.

The only vaccinator participating currently is the community clinic in Janesville. Four other local health departments were testing the registry and could start using it soon. Those were the city of Wauwatosa, and Green, Marathon and Oneida counties. More are expected to be added throughout the month.

The state Department of Health Services directs users whose local provider is not listed to instead check its website for available vaccinators and contact them directly.

To schedule an appointment, users must complete a questionnaire. If they are eligible and an appointment is available, they will be able to schedule it. The registry is available at vaccinate.wi.gov.

As of Tuesday, 16.8% of Wisconsin’s adult population had received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is ahead of the national average of 15.6%.

In other pandemic-related developments Wednesday:

— Madison’s three main hospitals eased their restrictions on visitors. UnityPoint Health-Meriter, UW Health and SSM Health said they will allow one visitor per adult patient and two visitors for pediatric patients at their hospitals and clinics beginning Monday. The hospitals said people with confirmed COVID-19 cases or those experiencing symptoms should not visit.

— UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in taped remarks for the Wisconsin Counties Association’s annual Legislative Exchange meeting that a normal fall semester hinges on the pace of vaccinations for faculty, staff and students. She said the university is an authorized vaccinator and hopes to vaccinate all faculty and staff by the end of the spring semester. Any student who arrives for the fall semester and hasn’t been vaccinated will “need” to be vaccinated through the university, she said. UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas said Blank did not mean to imply that student vaccinations will be mandatory. The university’s goal is to offer vaccinations to any student who wants one, Lucas said.

— UW System spokesman Mark Pitsch said there are no plans for mandatory student vaccinations at any system school.

— Democratic Gov. Tony Evers floated the idea of allowing schools to open before Sept. 1 for the 2021-22 academic year as a way to help students catch up after a year of virtual learning. Such a move would require a change to state law. Republicans have been pressuring Evers to force schools statewide to reopen for in-person learning.

— COVID-19 cases remained relatively low. State health officials reported 539 new cases, among the lowest daily levels seen since July. The seven-day average of cases was 545, down from 575 on Tuesday. The disease was a factor in another 18 deaths, bringing the death toll to 6,458, and the number of active cases in the state stood at 7,185 on Wednesday.

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