Another Record Set For New COVID-19 Cases, Percentage Of Positive Tests Spikes

DHS: 2,817 Cases Of COVID-19 Saturday, 22.4 Percent Of Tests Positive

vehicles can be seen side-by-side as test technicians do various tasks
Vehicles are stopped in several lanes as drivers get tested for COVID-19 on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 2,817 new cases of the virus on Saturday, marking a new record for daily coronavirus cases for the state.

Saturday’s data brings the average for the past seven days to 2,012 daily cases. The seven-day average has been hitting record highs since Sept. 11.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

On Friday, DHS reported 2,504 new cases of the virus, the second-highest yet, second only to Sept. 18, when DHS reported 2,533 cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 113,645, according to the DHS. A total of 1,281 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with seven new deaths reported on Saturday.

According to DHS, 22.4 percent of all test results reported on Saturday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 17.2. The previous seven-day period’s test positivity rate was 16.4 percent.

Saturday’s percentage of positive tests is the second highest that figure has been since March 11 when the test positivity rate was 23 percent.

The percentage of positive cases 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 38,959 as of Saturday. The number of actual people with test results reported on Saturday was 12,584.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,507,057 people’s test results over the course of the pandemic. 1,393,412 have tested negative.

COVID-19 activity varies heavily from county to county. The latest coronavirus activity data from DHS, released once per week each Wednesday, showed that all 72 Wisconsin counties had a “high level” of coronavirus activity. 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.

On Wednesday, counties with the highest case rates per capita included Forest, La Crosse, Kewaunee and Florence counties. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Menominee, Price and Lafayette and Ashland counties.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are also at a record high in the state, with the Wisconsin Hospital Association showing 528 hospitalized patients in Wisconsin as of Thursday.


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. Wisconsin doesn’t meet either standard as of Saturday.

According to DHS, 7,041 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Saturday. That means at least 6 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 41,701 people, or 37 percent.