COVID-19 Cases Continue To Trend Upward In Wisconsin

DHS Reports 703 New Cases, 2 Deaths

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A man is tested for COVID-19 at a walk-up testing site in Miami Beach, Florida.
Rafael Ruiz, left, is tested for COVID-19 at a walk-up testing site during the coronavirus pandemic, Friday, July 17, 2020, in Miami Beach, Fla. Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

The state’s seven-day average for new cases of COVID-19 continues to climb, according to the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 703 new cases of the virus on Monday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 868 daily cases, the highest it’s been since the start of the pandemic. The previous record average was on Sunday with 838 cases, after a week in which there were several days with over 900 new cases.

The average has increased every day in July except for one. One week ago, the average was 697 daily cases; the week before that, it was 571.

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The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 43,018, according to the DHS. A total of 846 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with two new deaths reported on Monday.

According to DHS, 10.1 percent of all test results reported on Monday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the average percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 7.6. The seven-day average a week ago was 6.7 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 24,162 as of Monday. The number of actual tests reported on Monday was 6,992.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 780,209 tests over the course of the pandemic. 737,191 have come back 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 59 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 July 15, 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 last week, all counties reported at least one case over a two-week period.

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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 Monday, the state has seen a downward trend in COVID-like cases, but not in influenza-like cases.

According to DHS, 4,129 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Monday. That means at least 9.6 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 14,545 people, or 34 percent.

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