New COVID-19 Cases, Testing Positivity Rates Continue To Hit Record Highs In Wisconsin

DHS Says Weekend Outage Of Case Tracking Website Plays Into Daily Total

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A sign on a glass door says "mask required"
A sign hangs on the door of a business in downtown Madison on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Angela Major/WPR

Wisconsin’s seven-day average for daily new COVID-19 cases reported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services continued to rise to record-high levels on Tuesday.

DHS reported 4,591 new cases of the disease Tuesday, the highest daily total recorded during the pandemic. However, the agency said weekend maintenance on the computer system used to track cases has caused a backlog of data, and is affecting single-day totals.

As health departments work through importing these cases, our historical data and case numbers may be higher over the next few days,” said DHS Secretary Andrea Palm to reporters on Tuesday. “For a more accurate representation of COVID-19 in Wisconsin over the course of this upgrade, we continue to recommend that you look at our seven-day rolling averages.”

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The average for the past seven days is now at 3,287 daily cases.

One week ago, the average was 2,727. One month ago, it was 1,838.

There were 33 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Tuesday, bringing the seven-day average to about 18 deaths per day. COVID-19 deaths have also been on the rise this month: Three weeks ago, DHS was reporting an average of seven deaths per day.

DHS reported 9,070 negative tests on Tuesday.

21.7 percent of people who got tested for COVID-19 over the past week were positive for the disease, according to DHS. That rate has been on the rise since Oct. 6 when it was 17.2 percent.

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 12 percent.

According to DHS, there were 1,172 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Monday. A total of 9,537 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 5 percent of all positive cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 178,482, according to DHS. A total of 1,633 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 activity varies heavily from county to county. The latest county and regional activity data from DHS, released last Wednesday, showed 57 counties had a “very high level” of COVID-19 activity, two higher than in the previous week’s report. The rest had a “high” level of activity. 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.

As of Wednesday, the state’s Fox Valley region had the most new cases per capita over the previous two weeks, while Wisconsin’s South Central region had seen cases rise most rapidly.

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 42,456 as of Tuesday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Tuesday was 13,661.

A total of 1,891,365 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 1,712,883 have tested negative.

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