Percentage Of Positive COVID-19 Tests Jumps To 11.2 On Sunday

Number Is The Highest It's Been Since May 1

COVID-19 saliva test development
Wisconsin research is part of developing a new saliva-based test for COVID-19. Jeff Miller/UW-Madison

New reports of COVID-19 cases are holding steady compared to last week, averaging around 741 cases per day in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 685 new cases of the virus on Sunday. One week ago, the average was 804 daily cases. Sunday’s new case total is the lowest that figure has been since Aug. 12, when there were 478 new cases.

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The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 65,741, according to the DHS. A total of 1,039 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with one new death reported on Sunday.

According to DHS, 11.2 percent of all test results reported on Sunday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 7.7. The previous seven-day period’s test-positive rate was 7.5.

Sunday’s test-positivity rate is the highest that figure has been since May 11 when it was 12.7 percent.

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 27,898 as of Sunday. The number of actual people with test results reported on Sunday was 12,890.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 65,741 positive and 1,060,533 negative test results over the course of the pandemic.

COVID-19 activity varies heavily from county to county. The latest coronavirus activity data from DHS, released once per week each Wednesday, showed that 66 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 Aug. 12, counties with the highest new case rates per 100,000 residents in the last two weeks included Marinette, Barron, Sawyer and Lafayette. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Oneida, Lafayette and Green.

There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties.


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.

According to DHS, 5,304 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Sunday. That means at least 8 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 22,170 people, or 34 percent.

Editor’s Note: Previous WPR reporting on the DHS’s daily COVID-19 updates featured the average daily rate of positive testing from the past seven days. Present and future reporting will no longer include that metric, but will instead highlight the overall percentage of positive tests from the past seven days.