DHS Reports 3,626 Positive Cases Of COVID-19 On Sunday

7-Day Average Of Percentage Of Positive Tests Has Been Rising Since Oct. 6

The Wisconsin State Capitol can be seen behind a poll worker in a mask and neon vest. He takes an ID card from a voter's hand as they sit in their car.
Poll worker Wade DallaGrana checks a voter’s identification Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, outside of the Madison City Clerk’s Office. Voters have the option of voting from their cars or inside the building at this location. DallaGrana said things were very crowded this year because of the pandemic. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases were holding steady on Sunday after hitting a record high over the weekend, based on the latest data published by the state Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 3,626 new cases of the disease Sunday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 4,007 daily cases. That average has more than doubled over the past month. On Sept. 25, the seven-day average for new cases was 1,935.

There were eight new deaths from COVID-19 reported Sunday. On Sunday, 10,396 tested negative.

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On Saturday night, thousands attended a rally for President Donald Trump at the Waukesha County Airport. That day, the DHS data showed Waukesha County had a total of 112 COVID-19 deaths recorded since the start of the pandemic. Only Milwaukee County, which is more than double the population Waukesha County, has recorded more deaths from the virus.

Trump repeatedly said the pandemic is “rounding the turn,” and blamed high numbers across the country on a high level of testing. But in Wisconsin, the positivity rate of all tests has also hit record levels; 24.5 percent of people who got tested for COVID-19 over the past week across the state were positive for the disease, according to DHS. That rate has been rising since Oct. 6.

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 12.8 percent as of Saturday.

According to DHS, there were 1,237 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Saturday. A total of 10,332 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 5.2 percent of all positive cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 198,166, according to DHS. A total of 1,778 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 activity varies heavily from county to county. The latest activity data from DHS, released Wednesday, showed 68 counties had a “very high level” of COVID-19 activity, an increase of 11 from last week’s report. The rest — Burnett, Douglas, Pierce and Polk counties — had a “high” level of activity.

Wisconsin overall had a “very 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.

In the latest data, the state’s Fox Valley region continued to have the most new cases per capita over the previous two weeks. The state’s Southeast region saw cases rise most rapidly.

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 42,456 as of Sunday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Sunday was 14,022.

A total of 1,966,192 have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 1,768,026 have tested negative.