Wisconsin Sets Grim Record With 92 New COVID-19 Deaths Reported Tuesday

DHS Reports 7,090 New Cases, 318 New Hospitalizations

A woman in a face mask holds a drink as she pushes open a door that has signs indicating mask requirements for entry
A woman exits a business in a face mask Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, in Stoughton, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state Department of Health Services, with deaths from the disease also at an all-time high.

DHS reported 7,090 new cases of the disease Tuesday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 6,429 daily cases. One week ago, the average was 5,825 daily cases.

There were 92 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Tuesday, the highest single-day count since the pandemic began, bringing the seven-day average for COVID-19 deaths to a record-high 49 per day. On Tuesday, 15,653 people tested negative.

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Of the people who got tested for COVID-19 over the past week, 35.4 percent were positive for the disease, according to DHS. That rate has slightly declined over the past few days, but it’s still significantly higher than it was at the beginning of September, when it was less than 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 17.3 percent.

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, there were 2,274 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Monday. A total of 14,817 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 4.6 percent of all known positive cases. According to DHS, 318 people were newly hospitalized on Tuesday, a single-day record.

As hospitals across the state are close to reaching capacity limits, Children’s Wisconsin in Milwaukee is preparing to accept adult patients in order to free up space in other hospitals. According to a hospital representative, Children’s will be taking in some COVID-negative patients under the age of 26.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 323,848, according to DHS. A total of 2,741 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 activity varies from county to county. Last week, DHS revised its categories for severity to include a “critically high level,” which the agency said is three times higher than “very high,” the former top level. At the time, DHS showed 65 counties had a “critically high level” of COVID-19 activity, and the rest had a ” very high” level of activity. Wisconsin overall had a “critically high” level of activity.

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 last Wednesday, the north-central region of the state had the most new cases per capita over the previous two weeks, while the northwest 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 59,253 as of Tuesday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Tuesday was 22,743.

A total of 2,438,649 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 2,824,801 have tested negative.