59 Counties Have ‘High’ COVID-19 Activity Levels, As State Sees 821 New Cases Wednesday

Every County Recorded A Case In The Last Two Weeks

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A health worker performs a COVID-19 test at a Test Iowa site.
A health worker performs a COVID-19 test at a Test Iowa site at Waukee South Middle School, Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Waukee, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

New reports of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin were down slightly Wednesday from the previous day, but were still among the highest totals seen yet, in the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 821 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, the fourth-highest daily total the DHS has reported so far, bringing the average for the past seven days to 796 cases per day. One week ago, the average was 565 daily cases; two weeks ago, it was 490.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 38,727, according to the DHS. A total of 827 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with one new death reported on Wednesday.

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COVID-19 activity varies from county to county. The DHS released its latest batch of coronavirus activity data on Wednesday, showing that 59 counties had a “high level” of coronavirus activity, up from the previous week’s 47 counties. Activity level designations are based on “burden,” or the number of new cases per a county’s population over a 14-day period, as well as whether there’s an upward or downward trend in new cases.

Counties with the highest case rates per capita included Milwaukee, Trempealeau and Marquette. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Price, Pepin and Iron.

There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties, and based on the data from Wednesday, all counties reported at least one case over a two-week period.

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According to DHS, 5.9 percent of all test results reported on Wednesday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the average percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 7.2. That figure has held fairly steady over the past week — the seven-day average a week ago was 7.1 percent.

The percentage of positive tests is often read by public health officials as a measure of overall testing levels. A high rate could indicate that testing in the state is limited, and skewed toward those already flagged as potentially having the virus. A lower rate could indicate testing is more widespread.

Changes in the test positivity rate can also speak to a virus’ spread, if the size and makeup of the testing pool stays consistent.

Wisconsin’s daily testing capacity — based on the availability of test supplies and adequate staffing — has grown from 120 available lab tests in early March to 24,362 as of Wednesday. The number of actual tests reported on Wednesday was 13,925.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 725,026 tests over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 686,299 have come back negative.

DHS still has a dashboard showing Wisconsin’s progress on gating criteria under the now-defunct Badger Bounce Back Plan. Those gating criteria would have been used to determine when it would be safe to begin reopening the state, prior to the state Supreme Court ruling that ended a statewide stay-at-home order. The state has never met all six of the criteria at once.

Two of the criteria are a statistically significant 14-day downward trend in COVID-like cases reported in emergency departments, and a similar downward trend for influenza-like cases in emergency departments. As of Wednesday, the state met neither of those criteria.

According to DHS, 3,923 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Wednesday. That means at least 10 percent of people who have tested positive for the new coronavirus in the state have been hospitalized. DHS officials said they don’t know the hospitalization history of 12,672 people, or 33 percent.

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