Wisconsin Cases Of COVID-19 Continue To Rise, As Availability Of Hospital Beds Shrinks

In Wednesday Update, DHS Reports 86 Percent Of Available COVID-19 Hospital Beds Now Occupied

A man in a blue gown leans down to a car holding a swab
A COVID-19 test technician leans down to speak to a person in line before administering the test Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Janesville. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 3,107 new cases of the disease Wednesday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 2,840 daily cases. One week ago, the average was 2,346 daily cases. That average is the highest that figure has been since the start of the pandemic.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

There were 28 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Wednesday, the second-highest single-day total recorded since the start of the pandemic. On Wednesday, 11,435 tested negative.

Over the past week, 20.3 percent of people who got tested for COVID-19 were positive for the disease, according to DHS. That rate has been on the rise over the past week.

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 10.4 percent.

According to DHS, there were 959 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Tuesday. A total of 8,754 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 6 percent of all positive cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 158,578, according to DHS. A total of 1,536 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 activity varies heavily from county to county. The most recent county and regional activity data, released Wednesday, showed 57 counties had a “very high level” of COVID-19 activity, two higher than in the previous week’s report. The rest had a “high” level of activity. Wisconsin overall had a “very high” level of activity, according to DHS.

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. On Wednesday, the state’s Fox Valley region had the most new cases per capita over the previous two weeks, while Wisconsin’s South Central region saw cases rise most rapidly.


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 42,240 as of Wednesday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Wednesday was 14,542.

A total of 1,726,967 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 1,568,389 have tested negative.