DHS: 943 New Cases Of COVID-19 Confirmed On Thursday

Number Of Daily Confirmed Cases Hits Highest Point In Several Days

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A man pays at a parking meter machine while wearing a mask
A man wears a mask as he pays for parking on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in downtown Madison. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin hit the highest daily number of new confirmed cases in several days on Thursday, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 943 new cases of the virus on Thursday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 775 daily cases.

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One week ago, the average was 810 daily cases. Thursday’s new case total is the highest that figure has been since last Saturday, when there were 1,165 new cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 63,206, according to the DHS. A total of 1,018 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with seven new deaths reported on Thursday.

According to DHS, 7.6 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 6.9. That figure has been rising since Sunday, when it was 5.9 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 24,178 as of Thursday. The number of actual people with test results reported on Thursday was 12,415.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,098,401 people’s test results over the course of the pandemic. 1,035,195 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 66 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 new case rates per 100,000 residents in the last two weeks included Marinette, Barron, Sawyer and Lafayette. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Oneida, Lafayette and Green.

There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties.

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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 meets the criteria for COVID-like cases, but not influenza-like cases.

According to DHS, 5,170 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Thursday. That means at least 8.2 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 21,199 people, or 34 percent.

Editor’s Note: Previous WPR reporting on the DHS’s daily COVID-19 updates featured the average daily rate of positive testing from the past seven days. Present and future reporting will no longer include that metric, but will instead highlight the overall percentage of positive tests from the past seven days.

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