Wisconsin Surpasses 190,000 Coronavirus Cases As State Clears Testing Backlog

DHS Reported 42 New Deaths, 4,378 New Cases Friday

a woman in a face mask presses a nail onto another woman's hands
Phuong Nguyen, left, owner of LA Nails in Watertown, gives customer Rhonda VanLoo, right, a manicure Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases remain high in Wisconsin, as the state Department of Health Services confirms it’s cleared the backlog of testing data that accumulated after its coronavirus dashboard went down for upgrades last weekend.

DHS reported 4,378 new cases of the disease Friday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 3,470 daily cases. One week ago, the average was 3,052 daily cases.

There were 42 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Friday, marking the second time since the pandemic began that DHS recorded more than 40 deaths on a single day.

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On Friday, 13,426 people tested negative.

Nearly 23 percent of people who got tested for COVID-19 over the past week were positive for the disease, according to DHS. That rate has held steady for about a week.

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 11.9 percent.

According to DHS, there were 1,202 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Thursday. A total of 10,038 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 5.3 percent of all positive cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 190,478, according to DHS. A total of 1,745 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 activity varies heavily from county to county. The latest activity data from DHS, released Wednesday, showed 68 counties had a “very high level” of COVID-19 activity, an increase of 11 from last week’s report. The rest — Burnett, Douglas, Pierce and Polk counties — had a “high” level of activity.

Wisconsin overall had a “very 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.

In the latest data, the state’s Fox Valley region continued to have the most new cases per capita over the previous two weeks. The state’s Southeast 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 42,456 as of Friday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Friday was 17,804.

A total of 1,934,550 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 1,744,072 have tested negative.