DHS: 740 New COVID-19 Cases, 7 New Deaths

7-Day Average Of New Cases Declines Slightly

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A healthcare worker administers a COVID test
A COVID-19 test technician speaks to someone in the drive thru Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, at UW-Madison. Angela Major/WPR

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

DHS reported 740 new cases of the virus on Thursday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 718 daily cases. One week ago, the average was 775 daily cases.

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The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 68,223, according to the DHS. A total of 1,067 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with seven new deaths reported on Thursday.

According to DHS, 7.5 percent of all test results reported on Thursday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 8 percent. That figure has been rising steadily over the past two weeks.

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. On Wednesday, the DHS acknowledged a decline in the number of tests being reported, possibly due to nationwide shortages of testing supplies.

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 28,319 as of Thursday. The number of actual people with test results reported on Thursday was 9,871.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,161,527 people’s test results over the course of the pandemic. 1,093,294 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 Wednesday, 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.

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. The state currently meets the criteria for COVID-like illnesses but not for influenza-like illnesses.

According to DHS, 5,469 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Thursday. 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 22,924 people, or 34 percent.

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