Percentage Of Positive COVID-19 Tests Continues To Rise In Wisconsin

State's 7-Day Average Of Daily Cases Is At 6,168

A tent is set up for vehicles to drive through and receive COVID-19 testing
Drivers wait in their cars before driving into a tent to receive a COVID-19 test Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases are averaging at around 6,168 cases per day in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 5,146 new cases of the disease Saturday. One week ago, the average was 5,394 daily cases. It’s the first time that average has dipped in the past two weeks, though the average percentage of people testing positive has continued to rise.

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There were 52 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Saturday. On Saturday, 13,808 tested negative.

The percentage of people who tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week is 36.5, according to DHS. That rate has been on the rise over the past month, and 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 18.6 percent.

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, there were 2,045 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Saturday. A total of 14,226 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 4.6 percent of all positive cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 306,311, according to DHS. A total of 2,625 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 activity varies from county to county. On Wednesday the DHS revised is categories for severity to include a “critically high level,” which the agency said is three times higher than “very high,” the former top level. The DHS showed 65 counties had a “critically high level” of COVID-19 activity, and the rest had a ” very high” level of activity. Wisconsin overall had a “critically high” level of activity.

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 north-central region of the state had the most new cases per capita over the previous two weeks, while the northwest region saw 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 59,194 as of Saturday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Saturday was 18,954.

A total of 2,295,631 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 1,989,320 have tested negative.