New COVID-19 Cases Remain High As DHS Reports 1,369 Positive Tests Friday

Average Test-Positive Rate Has Continued Rising To All-Time Highs

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Worker manufacturing protective masks
A worker checks protective masks being manufactured in Warren, Mich., Thursday, April 23, 2020. Paul Sancya/AP Photo

Reports of COVID-19 cases remain high across the state as the Department of Health Services reported 1,369 new cases on Friday, following a single-day record of 1,547 positive cases Thursday.

The latest figures bring the average for the past seven days to 985 daily cases. One week ago, the average was 768 daily cases as the state headed into the Labor Day weekend.

Dane County has seen its seven-day average of positive tests climb to more than 6 percent after largely hovering around or below 2 percent for much of August. Dane County has seen a spike in new cases this week with 487 cases reported on Wednesday and 251 cases reported Thursday.

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UW-Madison reported 1,718 positive tests among students as of Friday and only 27 cases among employees. The university has temporarily moved classes online after more than 1,000 students have tested positive since Sept. 1.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 86,250, according to the DHS. A total of 1,197 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with four new deaths reported on Friday.

According to DHS, 13.8 percent of all test results reported on Friday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 13.6 percent — a new record high for the state. The average test-positive rate has been rising steadily, up from 9.1 percent one week ago.

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 38,530 as of Friday. The number of actual people with test results reported on Friday was 9,955.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,340,284 people’s test results over the course of the pandemic. 1,254,034 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 65 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 Forest, Portage, Brown and Kewaunee. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Grant, Marquette, Green and Door.

Every Wisconsin county has reported at least one new COVID-19 case over the last two weeks, although Price County is experiencing a low level of coronavirus activity, according to DHS.

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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. The state doesn’t meet either criteria, although it had seen a downward trend in COVID-like cases in prior weeks.

According to DHS, 6,263 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Friday. That means at least 7.3 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 29,646 people, or 34 percent.

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