COVID-19 Cases Continue To Decline In Wisconsin

State Health Officials Open COVID-19 Vaccine To People Age 65 And Older

sign requiring face coverings
A man wearing mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19 is reflected next to a sign requiring face coverings at a business in San Antonio, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in San Antonio. Eric Gay/AP Photo

New reports of COVID-19 cases continue to decline in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 1,525 new cases of the disease Tuesday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 1,895 daily cases. One week ago, the average was 2,827 daily cases.

There were 42 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Tuesday. On Tuesday, 3,556 tested negative.

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Of the people tested for COVID-19 over the past week, 23.9 percent were positive for the disease, according to DHS. That rate has been declining since the start of the month.

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 7.4 percent.

On Dec. 29, DHS officials began sharing vaccine data information, which will be updated every Tuesday.

According to DHS, 779,800 doses of the vaccine has been allocated across Wisconsin as of Tuesday, an increase of 172,150 from the last update. Currently, 248,185 doses of the vaccines have been administered, and 40,130 people have received both shots, completing the vaccination series.

A graph showing the daily number of vaccinations across the state has seen a steady increase in doses administered since the beginning of 2021 — although doses given dip on weekends.

On Tuesday, DHS announced people age 65 and older would be eligible to receive a vaccine starting on Monday, Jan. 25. The announcement comes ahead of the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee’s recommendations for who will be eligible for the vaccine in the next phase, 1b, in Wisconsin.

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said the state has heard from health care providers that they had capacity to start vaccinating more than just healthcare workers and those in the first phase.

“This is the population that has suffered the most from this disease, that has been disproportionately affected by death from this disease,” Van Dijk said of those 65 years and older. “We know providers have some vaccine on the shelves. We want to get that vaccine into arms and we want to be protecting this population.”

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, there were 875 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Monday. A total of 23,244 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 524,402, according to DHS. A total of 5,512 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 activity varies from county to county. The latest activity data from DHS, released Wednesday, showed Menominee, Juneau and Buffalo counties with a “critically high” level of COVID-19 activity, while 63 counties were listed as having a “very high” level of activity. Six counties had a “high” level of activity. The number of Wisconsin counties at a “critically high” level of COVID-19 activity has been increasing. 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. The Fox Valley was listed as “growing” in activity, while the Western region saw decreasing COVID-19 activity. The remainder saw no significant change in disease 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 59,275 as of Tuesday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Tuesday was 5,081.

A total of 2,969,801 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 2,445,399 have tested negative.