DHS: 7-Day Average Of New Positive COVID-19 Cases Continues To Rise In Wisconsin

Some College Counties Also See Upward Trend

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A man in a face mask, face shield, gown, and gloves handles a COVID-19 test at an outdoor testing facility under a tent
A COVID-19 test technician handles a test Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, at a pedestrian-friendly testing location at UW-Madison. Angela Major/WPR

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

DHS reported 771 new cases of the virus on Monday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 1,171 daily cases.

It’s typical for the DHS to report lower numbers of COVID-19 cases on Mondays.

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The average of daily new cases has been climbing since late August when the seven-day average was in the high 600s.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 89,956, according to the DHS. A total of 1,210 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with no new deaths reported on Monday.

According to DHS, 19.7 percent of all test results reported on Monday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 14.9 percent. A week ago the seven-day average test-positive rate was 10.2 percent, a figure that has been climbing since early August when it was just under 6 percent.

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 38,532 as of Monday. The number of actual people with test results reported on Monday was 3,920.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,363,563 people’s test results over the course of the pandemic. 1,273,607 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 65 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 Sept. 9, counties with the highest case rates per capita included Forest, Portage, Brown and Kewaunee. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Grant, Marquette, Green and Door.

La Crosse, Eau Claire and Dane counties, each of which are home to University of Wisconsin campuses, have all experienced an increase in cases in recent weeks. Fond du Lac, Portage and Outagamie counties have also seen cases rising.

Every Wisconsin county has reported at least one new COVID-19 case over the last two weeks, although Price County is experiencing a low level of coronavirus activity, according to DHS.

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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. Wisconsin does not currently meet either of those criteria.

According to DHS, 6,350 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Monday. That means at least seven 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 31,378 people, or 35 percent.

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