DHS Reports 1,059 New COVID-19 Cases As Mask Order Is Announced

DHS Secretary Andrea Palm Says Wisconsin Is Going The Wrong Direction As Case Count Grows

waitress wears a mask while serving customers outside
A waitress wears a mask as she works at a restaurant on East Brady Street in Milwaukee on Monday, July 13, 2020. Angela Major/WPR

Officials announced a statewide mask mandate, set to begin Saturday, as new reports of COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

On Thursday, DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said Wisconsin is going in the wrong direction in terms of managing the state’s coronavirus case count. The state is seeing significant community spread, she said.

DHS reported 1,059 new cases of the virus on Thursday, a jump from 870 cases Wednesday. Thursday marks the second highest number of daily new cases since the pandemic began, bringing the average for the past seven days to 887 daily cases. One week ago, the average was 896 daily cases.

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The spike comes as several rural Wisconsin counties have seen a leap in cases. Barron County has recorded 150 new cases in the last two weeks, spurred by an outbreak at a food manufacturer, county health officials announced Thursday.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 52,108, according to the DHS. A total of 919 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with eight new deaths reported on Thursday.

According to DHS, 6.1 percent of all test results reported on Thursday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the average percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 6.9. The seven-day average a week ago was 7.7.

The percentage of positive tests 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 24,156 as of Thursday. The number of actual tests reported on Thursday was 17,270.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 919,710 tests over the course of the pandemic, with 867,602 coming back negative.

In county-level data released Wednesday, the state reported 61 of its 72 counties now have high COVID-19 activity. Nine counties were classified as having medium levels of activity: Ashland, Crawford, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jackson, Vilas, Vernon and Richland counties. Only two, Florence and Rusk counties, had low levels of activity. Every region in the state was considered to have high 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.

There have now been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties, and based on the data from Wednesday, only one county reported no new cases over a 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. As of Thursday, the state met the former, but not the latter.

According to DHS, 4,590 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Thursday. That means at least 9 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 17,757 people, or 34 percent.