DHS: 58 Counties Have ‘High’ Levels Of COVID-19 Activity, But Some Report Downward Trajectory

As Of Wednesday, Iron, Milwaukee, Pepin And Marinette Reported The Highest Case Rates Per Capita

Worker in PPE approahces a vehicle with a COVID-19 test
A member of the Wisconsin National Guard approaches a vehicle before testing for COVID-19 on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Walworth, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin dropped significantly from Tuesday but remain high, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 712 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, bringing the average for the past seven days down to 874 daily cases. Wednesday is now one of only two days in which the seven-day average has dropped over the past month.

One week ago, the average was 796 daily cases. A week before that, it was 565.

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 Tuesday, DHS had reported a record 1,117 new cases in Wisconsin.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 44,847, according to the DHS. A total of 865 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with six new deaths reported on Wednesday.

COVID-19 activity varies heavily from county to county. The latest coronavirus activity data from DHS released on Wednesday shows that 58 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, Milwaukee, Pepin and Marinette. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Lincoln and Racine.

There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties, and based on the data from last Wednesday, all counties had at least one new case over a two-week period.

Though COVID-19 activity levels continued to be high in Marquette, Dane and Monroe counties, each one reported a downward trajectory in cases.


According to DHS, 4.8 percent of all test results reported on Wednesday were positive for COVID-19. It’s the lowest percentage of positive tests reported since July 7, bringing the average percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 7.7. That figure has been rising over the last week, driven by over 10 percent of tests coming back positive on July 19 and 20.

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 Wednesday. The number of actual tests reported on Wednesday was 14,780.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 809,477 over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 764,630 have come back negative.

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 Wednesday, Wisconsin met the former but not the latter.

According to DHS, 4,225 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Wednesday. That means at least 9 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 14,961 people, or 33 percent.