COVID-19 Cases Climb As Post-Holiday Testing Picks Up

DHS Reports 3,474 New Cases And 40 New Deaths Thursday

A healthcare worker pushes the vaccine into a syringe
Registered nurse Angela Yarbrough draws up a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – Madison. Angela Major/WPR

Reports of new COVID-19 cases are climbing in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 3,474 new cases of the disease Friday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 2,715 daily cases. Daily new cases have been rising since just after Christmas, when the seven-day average reached a low point of 1,882 on Dec. 26.

There were 40 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Friday. Since Jan. 1, 260 people have died from the disease, according to state data. In all, Wisconsin has seen 5,119 people die from COVID-19.

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On Friday, 7,128 people tested negative.

Of the people who got tested for COVID-19 over the past week, 29.8 percent were positive for the disease, according to DHS. That rate has also been on the rise since the Christmas holiday, when it was 24.2 percent. Friday’s seven-day average was a decline from a 31.9 percent positivity rate on Monday.

The positivity rate 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 COVID-19. A lower rate could indicate testing is more widespread. Changes in the test positivity rate can also speak to COVID-19’s spread, if the size and makeup of the testing pool stays consistent.

DHS also tracks the percentage of tests that are positive, instead of the percentage of people who get a positive result. The metric takes into account people who have been tested multiple times. The seven-day average for that number is 11.1 percent.

On Dec. 29, DHS officials began sharing vaccine data information, which will be updated every Tuesday. According to a DHS news release, the vaccine data includes “summary metrics for allocation, shipment and total vaccine administered, as well as a graph displaying the number of vaccinations administered per day.”

According to DHS, 420,200 doses of the vaccine has been allocated across Wisconsin as of Tuesday. Currently, 85,609 doses of the vaccines have been administered while 266,675 have been shipped. Of the two vaccines approved for use, 64,674 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered while 20,935 doses are the Moderna vaccine.

A graph showing the daily number of vaccinations across the state saw vaccinations increase steadily in the last days of 2020. Preliminary data shows a sharp decrease in vaccinations Jan. 1, with an increase in the days after that.

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, there were 1,077 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Thursday. A total of 22,206 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 4.4 percent of all positive cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 502,012, according to DHS.

COVID-19 activity varies from county to county. The latest activity data from DHS, released Wednesday, showed Menominee County with a “critically high” level of COVID-19 activity, while 61 counties were listed as having a “very high” level of activity. Ten counties had a “high” level of activity. The number of Wisconsin counties at a “critically high” level of COVID-19 activity has been on the decline. Wisconsin’s overall level is “very high.”

COVID-19 activity designations are based on 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.

As of Wednesday, all seven of Wisconsin’s regions had “very high” levels of activity and were listed as “growing” in activity, according to DHS.

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 59,245 as of Friday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Friday was 10,602.

In total, 2.9 million people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 2.4 million have tested negative.