Wisconsin Marks 3K COVID-19 Deaths Since Beginning Of Pandemic

State Health Officials Report 6,224 Positive Cases Of Disease; 51 More Deaths

A man in a face mask pulls on blue gloves
Phlebotomist Essaha Ceesay works in a COVID-19 unit Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, at UW Hospital. Angela Major/WPR

Wisconsin reached a grim milestone Saturday, with health officials reporting deaths from COVID-19 have topped 3,000 since the pandemic began.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 51 new deaths from COVID-19 Saturday, bringing the total number of deaths to 3,005.

This comes as positive cases of the disease continue at a high level. DHS reported 6,224 cases of the disease Saturday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 6,408 daily cases. Daily new cases have been rising since early September when the average was less than 700.

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On Saturday, 11,669 people tested negative.

Of the people who got tested for COVID-19 over the past week, 30.6 percent were positive for COVID-19, according to DHS. That rate has been falling slightly this week, although it’s still significantly higher than it was in early September, when the rate was below 10 percent.

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 14.6 percent.

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, there were 2,076 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Friday. A total of 15,734 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 4.5 percent of all positive cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 351,169, according to DHS.

COVID-19 activity varies from county to county. The latest activity data from DHS, released Wednesday, showed all but one of Wisconsin’s counties had a “critically high level” of COVID-19 activity, and Green County had a “very high” level of activity. Wisconsin overall had a “critically 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.

As of Wednesday, the northwestern region of the state had the most new cases per capita over the previous two weeks, while the western and northwestern regions 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 59,159 as of Saturday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Saturday was 17,893.

A total of 2,425,029 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 2,073,860 have tested negative.