DHS: 638 New COVID-19 Cases, 13 New Deaths

Percentage of Positive Tests Remains Steady at 8 Percent

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signs for Maple Sweet Dairy can be seen behind a cashier in a mask
A customer makes a purchase at Maple Sweet Dairy on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, at the Brown County Fair. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases are averaging around 666 cases per day in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 638 new cases of the virus on Tuesday. One week ago, the average was 721 daily cases.

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The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 71,492, according to the DHS. A total of 1,094 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with 13 new deaths reported on Tuesday.

According to DHS, 6.4 percent of all test results reported on Tuesday were positive for COVID-19, with the overall percentage of positive tests over the past seven days remaining at 8 percent. That figure has been holding for the last week.

The percentage of positive cases 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 26,492 as of Tuesday. The number of actual people with test results reported on Tuesday was 9,987.

The DHS acknowledged last week that the state has been reporting fewer test results, possibly due to equipment shortages.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,200,463 people’s test results over the course of the pandemic. 1,128,971 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 67 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 Aug. 19, counties with the highest case rates per capita included Iron, Marinette and Sawyer. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Iron, Manitowoc and Walworth.

Brown and Fond du Lac counties saw spikes in cases over the weekend.

There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties. Based on the data from Wednesday, all counties reported new cases over the 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. On Tuesday, the state met the criteria for COVID-like illnesses, but not for influenza-like illneses.

According to DHS, 5,610 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Tuesday. That means at least 8 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 24,059 people, or 34 percent.

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