As New COVID-19 Cases Decline, Chicago Removes Wisconsin From Quarantine List

Announcement Follows Mask Order And Comes As Wisconsin Health Officials Report 634 New Cases

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a man in a mask serves beer at an outdoor tap to a customer in a mask
Rich Salisbury, right, serves beer Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, at a Kenosha Kingfish game. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 are on the decline after topping 1,000 positive cases three days this month, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 634 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 720 daily cases.

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One week ago, the average was 818 daily cases. Most recently the seven-day average reached a high of 930 on July 26.

In late July the city of Chicago added Wisconsin to a list of states from which travelers have to isolate themselves for 14 days after entering the city. On Tuesday, Wisconsin was removed from the emergency travel order.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 66,830, according to the DHS. A total of 1,052 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with 13 new deaths reported on Tuesday.

According to DHS, 6.3 percent of all test results reported on Tuesday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 7.6. That figure has been rising since June 5, when it was 3 percent.

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 27,912 as of Tuesday. The number of actual people with test results reported on Tuesday was 9,991.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,142,227 people’s test results over the course of the pandemic. 1,075,397 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 Aug. 12, counties with the highest new case rates per 100,000 residents in the last two weeks included Marinette, Barron, Sawyer and Lafayette. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Oneida, Lafayette and Green. There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties.

On Tuesday, Lincoln County reported its first death due to the virus and Brown County saw a one-day surge of 111 cases.

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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 does not meet the latter metric but is seeing fewer COVID-like cases in hospital emergency rooms.

According to DHS, 5,380 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Tuesday. That means at least 8.1 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 22,349 people, or 34 percent.

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