DHS Reports 3,501 New Cases Of COVID-19 Tuesday

Daily Cases, Seven-Day Average Have Been Falling Since Early December

a registered nurse becomes the first person in Oklahoma to receive Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine
Hannah White, left, a registered nurse who works in the emergency room, becomes the first person in Oklahoma to receive Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo

New reports of COVID-19 cases are continuing to fall in Wisconsin while the state is in the early stages of distributing the newly approved Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

The state Department of Health Services reported 3,501 new cases of the disease Tuesday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 3,421 daily cases. That average has dropped significantly since hitting a peak of 6,563 cases Nov. 18. A brief spike of 4,102 was reported by DHS Dec. 4, but the seven-day average has fallen precipitously since then.

There were 54 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Tuesday, while 7,299 people tested negative for the virus.

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Of the people who got tested for COVID-19 over the past week, 27.5 percent were positive for the disease, according to DHS. That rate has also been falling since the spike on Dec. 4. The last time Wisconsin saw a positive rate similar to Tuesday’s was Oct. 26 when DHS reported a seven-day average of 27.3 percent.

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 10.6 percent.

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, there were 1,471 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Monday. The DHS notes a total of 19,510 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 442,396, according to DHS. A total of 4,122 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 24 counties had a “critically high” level of COVID-19 activity, while 47 were listed as having a “very high” level of activity, and one, Waushara County, had a “high” level That’s a notable change from the previous week when 41 counties were listed as “critically high”. Wisconsin’s overall level moved from “critically high” to “very high” since last week, 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, two of Wisconsin’s regions — the western, and southeast regions — had “critically high” levels of activity, while two others — the Fox Valley and northeast regions — had “very high” activity that was growing.

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 59,735 as of Tuesday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Tuesday was 7,299.

A total of 2,702,188 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 2,259,792 have tested negative.