DHS Reports More Than 1,000 New COVID-19 Cases For Third Time This Week

7-Day Average At All-Time High Of 916 Cases

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A man pays at a parking meter machine while wearing a mask
A man wears a mask as he pays for parking on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in downtown Madison. Angela Major/WPR

Friday marked the third day this week that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19.

DHS reported 1,018 new cases of the virus on Friday, bringing the average for the past seven days to a new all-time high of 916 daily cases. One week ago, the average was 822 daily cases; two weeks ago, it was 633 cases.

Cases have been rising steadily in July: The seven-day average has increased every day save two since June 23, and daily case counts have been over 700 for every day save one over the past two weeks.

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The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 46,917, according to the DHS. A total of 878 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with no new deaths reported on Friday.

According to DHS, 5.8 percent of all test results reported on Friday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the average percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 7.6 percent. The seven-day average a week ago was 2.7 percent.

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 Friday. The number of actual tests reported on Friday was 17,456, the highest single-day total so far during the pandemic.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 842,197 tests over the course of the pandemic; 20.7 percent of those cases are currently active. 795,280 tests have come back 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 58 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, Milwaukee, Brown and Racine. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Lincoln and Racine.

There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties, and based on the data from last Wednesday, all counties had at least one new case over a two-week period.

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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. Wisconsin doesn’t currently meet either of those criteria.

According to DHS, 4,327 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Friday. That means at least 9.2 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 15,784 people, or 34 percent.

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