DHS: Wisconsin Continues To Average More Than 800 New Cases Per Day

Officials Announced 8 Additional COVID-19 Deaths Thursday, Bringing State Total To 978

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People wearing mask because of the pandemic
Pedestrians wearing masks on Wednesday, Aug 5, 2020, at UW-Madison. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin held steady Thursday, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 839 new cases of the virus on Thursday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 810 daily cases. One week ago, the average was 887 daily cases.

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The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 57,779, according to the DHS. A total of 978 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with eight new deaths reported on Thursday.

According to DHS, 4.7 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. The seven-day average has been in decline for just over two weeks, since it peaked at 7.8 percent on July 21.

The percentage of positive cases 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 people with test results reported on Thursday was 17,706.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,019,630 people’s test results over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 961,851 have tested 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 66 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, Barron and Burnett. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Iowa, Green and Washburn.

There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties, and based on the data released Wednesday, every county had a case over the previous 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. As of Thursday, Wisconsin met the former, but not the latter.

According to DHS, 4,881 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Thursday. That means at least 8.4 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 19,458 people, or 34 percent.

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