Wisconsin COVID-19 Cases Up Again On Tuesday, With 1,348 New Positive Tests Reported

Over The Past Week, 14 Percent Of Tests Have Come Back Positive

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A healthcare worker administers a COVID test
A COVID-19 test technician speaks to someone in the drive thru Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, at UW-Madison. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases are holding steady in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 1,348 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 1,261 daily cases.

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One week ago, the average was 842 daily cases.

The count of new cases has jumped substantially since Monday, when it was 771, though there is often a drop in new cases on Mondays because of a lag in testing data. Monday’s low numbers followed a record 1,582 new cases reported on Sunday.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 91,304, according to the DHS. A total of 1,220 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with 10 new deaths reported on Tuesday. Menominee County reported its first COVID-19 death.

According to DHS, 11 percent of all test results reported on Tuesday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 14 percent. The previous seven-day period’s test-positive rate was 14.9 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 38,553 as of Tuesday. The number of actual people with test results reported on Tuesday was 12,266.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,375,829 people’s test results over the course of the pandemic. 1,284,525 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 65 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, Portage, Brown and Kewaunee. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Grant, Marquette, Green and Door. The day after Wednesday’s data release, Dane County reported nearly 500 new cases. Other counties, including Fond du Lac and Eau Claire, reported all-time highs in single-day new reports of COVID-19 cases after DHS’s weekly county update on Wednesday.

There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties, and every Wisconsin county had reported at least one new case over the preceding two-week period as of last Wednesday.

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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 currently has a two-week downward trend in COVID-like cases, but not in influenza-like cases.

According to DHS, 6,406 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Tuesday. That means at least 7 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 31,763 people, or 35 percent.

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