A ‘Nightmare Scenario’: New COVID-19 Cases And Deaths Shatter State’s Previous Records

DHS Reports 5,262 New Cases, 64 New Deaths

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A sign requiring masks at the Door County Medical Center
Patients and visitors entering the lobby of the emergency department at Door County Medical Center in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. are instructed to wear masks to curb the spread of COVID-19. Door County Medical Center is a small, 25-bed critical access hospital serving 30,000 people across Door and northern Kewaunee counties. Photo taken Aug. 5, 2020. Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Watch

The day after Wisconsin broke 200,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the state saw new cases and deaths rise to new record highs, based on the latest data published by the state Department of Health Services.

In what the DHS’s chief medical officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard called “a nightmare scenario,” the DHS reported 5,262 new cases of the disease Tuesday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 3,975 daily cases. Tuesday’s new case total is the highest that figure has been since the beginning of the pandemic, shattering the previous single-day record set last week.

There were 64 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Tuesday, the most deaths from COVID-19 the state has reported in a single day, bringing the average over the past week to 31 deaths per day. On Tuesday, 11,266 people tested negative.

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25.7 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, and has been rising since the beginning of the month.

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 12.9 percent.

According to DHS, there were 1,350 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Monday. A total of 10,636 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 5.2 percent of all positive cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 206,311, according to DHS. A total of 1,852 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 activity varies heavily from county to county. The latest activity data from DHS, released Wednesday, showed 68 counties had a “very high level” of COVID-19 activity, an increase of 11 from last week’s report. The rest — Burnett, Douglas, Pierce and Polk counties — 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.

In the latest data, the state’s Fox Valley region continued to have the most new cases per capita over the previous two weeks. The state’s Southeast region saw cases rise most rapidly.

On Tuesday, there were notable spikes of new cases in Brown, Fond du Lac, Milwaukee, and Racine counties.

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 42,474 as of Tuesday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Tuesday was 16,528.

A total of 1,995,469 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 1,789,158 have tested negative.

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