COVID-19 Activity High In All But 6 Counties

Wisconsin Hits Milestone With More Than A Million People Tested

Two people sit at a table while wearing masks as those around them do not
Brienna Wagner, center, wears a mask while sitting at an outdoor table with Andy Wagner on Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Waukesha. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases are holding steady, averaging between 800 and 900 cases per day in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

The state also hit a milestone for the pandemic, with now over a million people having been tested for the virus.

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New cases have been on the rise since June 17 when the average was 265 reported per day. The daily average hit a peak on July 26, at 930 per day.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 56,940, according to the DHS. A total of 970 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with 9 new deaths reported on Wednesday.

According to DHS, 5.2 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 6.2. The seven-day average a week ago was 7 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 24,156 as of Wednesday. The number of people tested reported on Wednesday was 17,023.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,001,924 people tested over the course of the pandemic. 944,984 of them 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 66 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 Iron, Barron and Burnett. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Iowa, Green and Washburn.

There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties, and based on the data released Wednesday, every county had a case over the previous two-week period.


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 now meets both of those criteria. However, the state doesn’t meet other criteria like having a statistically significant downward trend in its positive-test rate, or in new cases among health care workers.

According to DHS, 4,826 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Wednesday. That means at least 8.5 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 19,301 people, or 34 percent of those who tested positive.