Wisconsin Surpasses 40,000 Cases Of COVID-19

7-Day Average Of Positive Tests Continues To Climb

A woman wears a face mask at a Boston aquarium
A woman checks in at the New England Aquarium, Friday, July 17, 2020, in Boston. Michael Dwyer/AP Photo

New reports of COVID-19 cases are holding steady at record-high levels in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 880 new cases of the virus on Friday, bringing the average for the past seven days to a record 822 daily cases. One week ago, the average was 634 daily cases.

Friday’s count of new cases is the fourth-largest reported by DHS since the start of the pandemic. Thursday’s count of 900 new cases was the third-largest.

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The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 40,507, according to the DHS. A total of 833 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with 2 new deaths reported on Friday.

According to DHS, 6.6 percent of all test results reported on Friday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the average percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 7.2 percent. The seven-day average has been between 6.5 percent and 7.5 percent every day for the past week.

The percentage of positive tests 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 24,162 as of Friday. The number of actual tests reported on Friday was 13,407.

The state has been reporting an average of 11,791 test results per day over the past week — the second-highest that number has been since the start of the pandemic.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 752,704 tests over the course of the pandemic. 12,527 have come back 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 59 counties had a “high level” of coronavirus activity, up from the previous week’s 47 counties. 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 Wednesday, counties with the highest case rates per capita included Milwaukee, Trempealeau and Marquette. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Price, Pepin and Iron.

There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties, and based on the data from Wednesday, all counties reported at least one case over a two-week period.


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. The state is not currently meeting either of those goals.

According to DHS, 4,031 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Friday. That means at least 10 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 13,327 people, or 33 percent.

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