DHS Reports 1,300 Positive Cases Of COVID-19, The Lowest Number Since September

Health Officials Concerned About Numbers After Thanksgiving Holiday

A Fed-Ex worker wearing a facemask makes a delivery
A Fed-Ex worker wears a face covering to help prevent the spread of coronavirus while delivering packages, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, in Kennebunkport, Maine. Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo

New reports of COVID-19 cases are the lowest they’ve been in months, based on the latest data published by the state Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 1,300 new cases of the disease Friday, the lowest that figure has been since Sept. 21, when there were 1,271 new cases reported and 18.7 percent of all test results reported were positive for COVID-19.

On Nov. 18, the state reached its highest daily tally ever: 7,989 new cases.

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Friday makes the fourth day of decline in positive COVID-19 cases. However, a big question that remains is if people heeded advice from health officials and pleas from health care workers to stick to their own households for the Thanksgiving holiday — something officials repeatedly said would help slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has been raging across the state for months. Officials have voiced their concern over the spread of the virus over the holiday weekend and what that could mean for positive cases in the weeks to come.

Thirty-three counties recorded no new cases between Thursday and Friday, according WisContext calculations based on DHS data.

The 1,300 new cases Friday bring the average for the past seven days to 4,413 daily cases. One week ago, the average was 6,254 daily cases. Daily new cases have been steadily rising since the beginning of September, with multiple figures breaking records often.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, health officials expect the decline in cases over the last week to be temporary.

There were 17 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Friday. On Friday, 8,498 tested negative.

Of the people who got tested for COVID-19 over the past week, 27.8 percent were positive for the disease, according to DHS. That rate has been on the decline over the last week.

The positivity rate 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 COVID-19. A lower rate could indicate testing is more widespread. Changes in the test positivity rate can also speak to COVID-19’s spread, if the size and makeup of the testing pool stays consistent.

On Sept. 30, DHS also introduced an alternative positivity rate, one that measures the percentage of tests that are positive, instead of the percentage of people who get a positive result. The new metric takes into account people who have been tested multiple times. The seven-day average for that number is at 12.9 percent.

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, there were 1,839 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Thursday. A total of 16,715 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 4.4 percent of all positive cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 375,837, according to DHS. A total of 3,257 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 activity varies from county to county. The latest activity data from DHS, released Wednesday, showed 65 counties had a “critically high level” of COVID-19 activity, while seven were listed as having a “very high” level of activity. Green County, which was the only county not experiencing a “critically high” activity level last week, was this week joined by Iron, Florence, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette and Green Lake counties. Wisconsin overall had a “critically high” level of activity, according to DHS.

COVID-19 activity designations are based on 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.

As of Wednesday, all of Wisconsin’s regions were seeing either a downward trend in cases, or were holding steady, though all remained at “critically high” levels of activity. Three counties — Brown, Crawford and Douglas — had an upward trend in cases, while the remaining counties were either trending down or holding steady.

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 59,495 as of Friday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Friday was 9,798.

A total of 2,509,537 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 2,133,700 have tested negative.