For Second Time Ever, Wisconsin Tops 2,500 Daily COVID-19 Cases

9 New Deaths Reported Friday

A sign outside B-Side Records in Madison explains the store's mask policy
A sign on the door of B-Side Records in downtown Madison explains the store’s mandatory mask policy. Steven Potter/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases are holding steady at near-record high levels in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 2,504 new cases of the virus Friday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 1,936 daily cases, the second-highest that average has ever been. Friday marks the first time since Sept. 11 that the seven-day-average hasn’t risen to a new record high.

Friday’s daily count of cases is the second-highest the state has seen yet, second only to Sept. 18, when DHS reported 2,533 cases.

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The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 110,828, according to DHS. A total of 1,274 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with nine new deaths reported Friday.

According to DHS, 16.6 percent of all test results reported Friday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 16.5 percent. The previous seven-day period’s test-positive rate was 15.3 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 38,959 as of Friday. The number of actual people with test results reported Friday was 15,079.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,494,473 people’s test results over the course of the pandemic, and 1,383,645 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 all 72 Wisconsin 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, La Crosse, Kewaunee and Florence counties. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Menominee, Price and Lafayette and Ashland counties.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are also at a record high in the state, with the Wisconsin Hospital Association showing 528 hospitalized patients in Wisconsin as of Thursday.


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 does not currently meet either of those criteria.

According to DHS, 6,962 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Friday. That means at least 6 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 40,597 people, or 37 percent.