Wisconsin Passes 1,000 Deaths From COVID-19

The State Has Averaged 818 New Cases Per Day Over The Past Week

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a mannequin bust is used to display a red cloth face mask in a window display as a pedestrian in a mask passes by
A pedestrian walks past a mask in a window display Friday, Jul 31, 2020, outside of Almont Gallery in Waukesha. Angela Major/WPR

Wisconsin has reported more than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 as of Tuesday. The state Department of Health Services reported eight new deaths, bringing the total to 1,006.

New reports of COVID-19 cases are ticking back up in Wisconsin after a dip over the weekend and on Monday, based on the latest data published by the DHS.

DHS reported 724 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 818 daily cases.

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One week ago, the average was 840 daily cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 61,785, according to the DHS.

According to DHS, 5.3 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 6.3 percent. That figure has been decreasing since Saturday, when it was 8.9 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 24,178 as of Tuesday. The number of actual people with test results reported on Tuesday was 13,599.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,076,062 people’s test results over the course of the pandemic. 1,014,277 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 66 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 Aug. 5, counties with the highest case rates per capita included Iron, Barron and Burnett. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Iowa, Green and Washburn.

There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties, and based on the data released Wednesday, every county had a case over the previous two-week period.

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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 meets the downward trajectory of COVID-like cases, but no the downward trend in flu-like cases over the past two weeks.

According to DHS, 5,092 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Tuesday. That means at least 8.2 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 20,831 people, or 34 percent.

Editor’s Note: Previous WPR reporting on the DHS’s daily COVID-19 updates featured the average daily rate of positive testing from the past seven days. Present and future reporting will no longer include that metric, but will instead highlight the overall percentage of positive tests from the past seven days.

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