New COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations In Wisconsin Continue To Skyrocket

DHS Reports 5,922 New Cases Thursday, 38 New Deaths

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A healthcare worker administers a COVID test
A COVID-19 test technician speaks to someone in the drive thru Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, at UW-Madison. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases are still on the rise in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 5,922 new cases of the disease Thursday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 4,989 daily cases. Thursday’s new case total is the second-highest Wisconsin has seen since the pandemic began and comes one day after the state’s highest single-day count.

On a call with reporters Wednesday, DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said the situation is dire, and Wisconsinites need to severely limit their contact with other people to curb the spread of the virus.

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“We should not be having contact with other human beings that we do not live with, hard stop,” she said. “That is where we are.”

There were 38 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Thursday. There were 9,518 negative tests.

Thirty-two percent of people who got tested for COVID-19 over the past week were positive for the disease, according to DHS. That rate is at an all-time high.

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 16.4 percent.

According to DHS, there were 1,747 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Wednesday. A total of 12,310 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 4.9 percent of all positive cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 249,924, according to DHS. A total of 2,194 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 activity varies heavily from county to county. In a media briefing on Wednesday, the DHS said that all 72 counties have a “very high level” of COVID-19 activity, based on the latest two weeks of data. 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.

According to data published Wednesday by the DHS, the North Central region of the state had the most new cases per capita over the previous two weeks. The Western part of the state saw cases growing the fastest.

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 57,078 as of Thursday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Thursday was 15,440.

A total of 2,131,737 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 1,881,813 have tested negative.

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