While Wisconsin’s New COVID-19 Cases Continue To Fall, Number Of Tests Still Low

DHS Reports 2,579 New Cases Wednesday

Christmas tree
Robert Navarro, right, helps customers choose a Christmas tree while wearing a mask on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Long Beach, Calif. Ashley Landis/AP Photo

New reports of COVID-19 cases are on the decline, although still fairly high in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 2,579 new cases of the disease Wednesday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 2,685 daily cases. One week ago, the average was 3,247 daily cases.

There were 69 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Wednesday. On Wednesday, 6,277 tested negative.

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Of the people who got tested for COVID-19 over the past week, 26 percent were positive for the disease, according to DHS. That rate has been steadily declining since the beginning of the month.

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 9.2 percent.

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, there were 1,274 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Wednesday. A total of 20,519 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 4.4 percent of all positive cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 463,594, according to DHS. A total of 4,614 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 activity varies from county to county. The latest activity data from DHS, released last Wednesday, showed 17 counties had a “critically high” level of COVID-19 activity, while 55 were listed as having a “very high” level of activity. Waushara, the lone county at only a “high” level last week, is again at “very high.” The number of Wisconsin counties at a “critically high” level of COVID-19 activity has been on the decline. Wisconsin’s overall level is “very high” for the second week in a row.

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, all seven of Wisconsin’s regions had “very high” levels of activity. That’s an improvement for two of Wisconsin’s regions — the western and southeast regions — which had “critically high” levels of activity last week.

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 59,185 as of Wednesday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Wednesday was 8,856.

A total of 2,773,585 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 2,309,991 have tested negative.