Nearly Two-Thirds Of Wisconsin Counties Have A ‘High Level’ Of Coronavirus Activity

Wednesday Sees 598 New Cases Of COVID-19, Bringing 7-Day Average To 565 Daily Cases

Motorists queue up at a COVID-19 testing site.
Motorists queue up for blocks along Auraria Parkway to take advantage of free COVID-19 testing outside the Pepsi Center early Tuesday, July 7, 2020, in Denver. David Zalubowski/Ap Photo

New reports of COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.

DHS reported 598 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 565 daily cases.

One week ago, the average was 491 daily cases. The number of new daily cases in Wisconsin hit an all-time high over the weekend. DHS reported 738 new cases on Saturday, setting a one-day record for the highest number of new cases since reporting began in March. After that peak, new cases dropped back into the 500s, but have been on the rise again over the last three days. Wednesday’s new case total is the highest that figure has been since Saturday’s peak.

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The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 33,154, according to DHS. A total of 807 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with two new deaths reported on Wednesday.

DHS also released new data on county-level coronavirus activity in the state on Wednesday. The data, which the agency updates once per week each Wednesday, showed that 47 counties had a “high level” of coronavirus activity, up from last week’s 36 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 Brown, Milwaukee and Racine. The counties with the most significant upward trends included Marquette, Milwaukee, Monroe and Trempealeau.

There have been confirmed cases in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties, although according to DHS, four counties have had no new cases over the past two weeks.

According to DHS, 5.6 percent of all test results reported Wednesday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the average percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 7.1 percent. That figure has been rising since June 17, when the average was 2.7 percent. The seven-day average a week ago was 5.3 percent.

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 19,014 as of Wednesday. The number of actual tests reported on Wednesday was 10,736.

Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 644,304 tests over the course of the pandemic; 611,150 of those have come back negative.

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 does not currently meet either of those criteria.

According to DHS, 3,683 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Wednesday. That means at least 11 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 10,167 people, or 31 percent.