Wisconsin Sets New Daily Record For COVID-19 Deaths

DHS Reports 120 New Deaths On Tuesday, Launches New At-Home Testing Program

People walk by the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree wearing face coverings
People walk by the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020 in New York. What’s normally a chaotic, crowded tourist hotspot during the holiday season is instead a mask-mandated, time-limited, socially distanced locale due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

Wisconsin has set a new single-day record for COVID-19 deaths.

The latest data from the state Department of Health Services reported 120 new deaths on Tuesday. The previous single-day record was 107 deaths on Dec. 1.

DHS reported 2,403 new cases of the disease Tuesday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 2,659 daily cases. One week ago, the average was 3,421 daily cases.

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On Tuesday, 4,449 people tested negative.

Of the people who got tested for COVID-19 over the past week, 26.2 percent were positive for the disease, according to DHS. That rate has been declining for several weeks.

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.

Gov. Tony Evers and DHS Secretary Andrea Palm announced a new at-home COVID-19 testing program Tuesday. The state has contracted Vault Medical Services to send saliva collection kits to Wisconsin residents regardless of whether they have symptoms. The state will pay for the new testing service and residents can order a collection kit on the DHS website.

Palm said the at-home collection is just as accurate as a nasal swab at a clinic or community testing site.

“We are excited to continue to diversify our options and expand access to testing in Wisconsin,” Palm said. “This is more important than ever. In recent weeks we’ve seen a decrease in the number of people seeking COVID-19 tests.”

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 9.1 percent.

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, there were 1,308 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Monday. A total of 20,355 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 4.4 percent of all positive cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 461,015, according to DHS. A total of 4,545 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 activity varies from county to county. The latest activity data from DHS, released Wednesday, showed 17 counties had a “critically high” level of COVID-19 activity, while 55 were listed as having a “very high” level of activity. Waushara, the lone county at only a “high” level last week, is again at “very high.” The number of Wisconsin counties at a “critically high” level of COVID-19 activity has been on the decline. Wisconsin’s overall level is “very high” for the second week in a row.

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, all seven of Wisconsin’s regions had “very high” levels of activity. That’s an improvement for two of Wisconsin’s regions — the western and southeast regions — which had “critically high” levels of activity last week.

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 59,185 as of Tuesday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Tuesday was 6,852.

A total of 2,764,729 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 2,303,714 have tested negative.