DHS: New Positive Cases Above 900 For First Time In A Week

Seven Day Average Remains Relatively Flat After Trending Down Since Late July

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two people walk on a sidewalk near the capitol building in Downtown Madison while wearing masks
People walk in downtown Madison while wearing masks on July 22, 2020. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases have risen for six consecutive days in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

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DHS reported 950 new cases of the virus on Saturday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 708 daily cases.

The average number of daily cases has trended down slightly in recent weeks, with daily cases a week ago averaging 732.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 70,009, according to the DHS. A total of 1,081 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with 13 new deaths reported on Saturday.

According to DHS, 10.9 percent of all test results reported on Saturday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 8.2. That figure has been rising since Tuesday, when it was 6.3 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 26,162 as of Saturday. The number of actual people with test results reported on Saturday was 8,700.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,180,797 people’s test results over the course of the pandemic; 1,110,788 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. On Saturday, Wisconsin met the criteria for COVID-like cases, but not for influenza-like cases.

According to DHS, 5,545 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Saturday. 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 23,581 people, or 34 percent.

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