Weekly Averages For New COVID-19 Cases, Positive Test Rate Continue At Record Highs In Wisconsin

DHS Reports 1,726 New Cases, 2 New Deaths From COVID-19 On Monday

A man in a face shield and mask hods up a phone to a driver's phone as he manages a line of cars
A worker wears a mask and face shield as he helps people prepare to be tested for COVID-19 on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases are averaging at almost 2,160 cases per day in Wisconsin. That’s the highest level since the start of the pandemic, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

The seven-day averages for the state’s test positivity rate also reached a record high for the second day in a row. This comes after state health officials reported a single-day record for new cases on Saturday.

DHS reported 1,726 new cases of the disease on Monday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 2,156 daily cases. It’s typical for the DHS to report lower numbers of COVID-19 cases on Mondays.

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One week ago, the average was 1,792 daily cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive tests in Wisconsin to 117,588, according to the DHS. A total of 1,283 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with two new deaths reported on Monday.

According to DHS, 21.9 percent of all test results reported on Monday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 18.2. The previous seven-day period’s test-positive rate was 16.4 percent.

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 disease. A lower rate could indicate testing is more widespread.

Changes in the test positivity rate can also speak to the spread of the coronavirus, 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 Monday. The number of actual people with test results reported on Monday was 7,885.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,522,965 people’s test results over the course of the pandemic. 1,405,377 have tested negative.

COVID-19 activity varies heavily from county to county. The latest activity data from DHS, released once per week each Wednesday, showed that all 72 Wisconsin counties had a “high level” of COVID-19 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.


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. On Monday, Wisconsin did not meet either criteria.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is also at record high levels. According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s dashboard, there are currently 571 patients hospitalized with the disease as of Sept. 27.

According to DHS, 7,142 people have been hospitalized because of COVID-19 as of Monday. That means at least 6 percent of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state have been hospitalized. DHS officials said they don’t know the hospitalization history of 43,824 people, or 37 percent.

Editor’s Note: WPR has updated the language it uses in its daily coverage of COVID-19 statistics to clarify the distinction between COVID-19, an infectious disease, and the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes that disease.