State Sees Dip In New COVID-19 Cases, But Numbers Still Remain High

DHS Reports 13 Deaths On Saturday

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A woman in a mask hands a frozen treat to a customer from a food truck
Amber Krueger, a driver for Kona Ice, wears a mask as she serves frozen treats to customers Tuesday, July 21, 2020, in Janesville, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases dipped below 1,000 after topping that mark three times in the past five days in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 953 new cases of the virus on Saturday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 912 daily cases.

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One week ago, the average was 829 daily cases. Daily new cases have been rising since June 17, when the average was 265 cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 47,870, according to the DHS. A total of 891 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with 13 new deaths reported on Saturday.

According to DHS, 6.7 percent of all test results reported on Saturday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the average percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 7.5. That figure has been rising since June 11, when the average was 2.7.

The percentage of positive tests 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 24,156 as of Saturday. The number of actual tests reported on Saturday was 14,201.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 856,398 over the course of the pandemic. 808,528 have come back negative.

COVID-19 activity varies heavily from county to county. The latest coronavirus activity from DHS, released once per week each Wednesday, showed that 58 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 Iron, Milwaukee, Brown and Racine. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Lincoln and Racine.

There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties, and based on the data from last Wednesday, all counties had at least one new case over a two-week period.

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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. Wisconsin does not meet either.

According to DHS, 4,370 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Saturday. That means at least 9.1 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 15,784 people, or 34 percent.

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