DHS: Positive COVID-19 Test Rate Jumps To 9.2 Percent

843 New Cases Reported Friday, 2 New Deaths

a person in a face mask reaches for food in a tray
A worker at Charlie’s Great Food wears a mask while filling to-go orders for drive thru attendees Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, at the Wisconsin State Fair park in West Allis. 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 843 new cases of the virus on Friday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 703 daily cases. One week ago, the average was 690 daily cases.

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The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 73,981, according to the DHS. A total of 1,113 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with 2 new deaths reported on Friday.

According to DHS, 9.2 percent of all test results reported on Friday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 8.4 percent. The previous seven-day period’s test-positive rate was 7.6 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 26,571 as of Friday. The number of actual people with test results reported on Friday was 9,156.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,230,788 people’s test results over the course of the pandemic. 1,156,807 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 Wednesday, counties with the highest case rates per capita included Iron, Sawyer, Oconto and Marinette. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Green Lake, Clark and Fond du Lac.

There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties. Based on the data from Wednesday, all counties reported cases over the two-week period.


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 cases, but not for influenza-like cases.

According to DHS, 5,736 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Friday. That means at least 7.8 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 24,882 people, or 34 percent.