New reports of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin again broke a single-day record, based on the latest data published by the state Department of Health Services.
DHS reported 2,887 new cases of the disease Thursday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 2,405 daily cases. One month ago, the average was 727 daily cases.
There were 21 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Thursday, the third-highest single-day total since the pandemic began. On Wednesday, there was a record 27 new deaths reported.
"At the end of the day, whether we're tired or not, the longer it takes for everyone to take COVID-19 seriously, the longer this virus will linger," said Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday during a media briefing. "We can't afford to act like things are business as usual."
He encouraged people to stay at home as much as possible — to get carry-out food rather than eating in restaurants, to watch sports from home, and to hold get-togethers virtually.
"COVID-19 isn't over," he said. "Our fight against this virus continues, and we know that now it's going to be harder than ever."
DHS secretary Andrea Palm said the state has hit its initial goal of hiring 1,000 contract tracers. She said between the state and local health departments, Wisconsin has hired around 1,200 tracers, with 60 brought on just this week and more expected in the coming days.
"The surge in cases we're seeing now is absolutely maxing out the contact tracing infrastructure that we have," she said.
For the most recent seven days of data listed on DHS's website, 17.4 percent of people who got tested for COVID-19 were positive for the disease. That seven-day rate has been on the rise since August.
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 Wednesday, 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 for Wednesday is at 9.3 percent.
According to DHS, there were 683 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Thursday. A total of 7,409 people have been hospitalized because of the disease.
The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 125,161, according to DHS. A total of 1,348 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 45 counties had a "very high level" of COVID-19 activity, and the rest 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.
As of Wednesday, the Fox Valley region of the state had the most new cases per capita over the previous two weeks, while the North Central 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 39,159 as of Thursday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Wednesday was 14,043, with a total of 30,961 tests done.