New reports of COVID-19 cases have risen to all-time highs in Wisconsin, based on the latest data published by the state’s Department of Health Services.
DHS reported 1,547 new cases of the virus on Thursday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 1,004 daily cases. That new case total and seven-day average are both the highest that they have been since the state began tracking COVID-19 cases in March. The previous highest seven-day average was on July 26 at 930 cases.
Daily new cases have been rising since the Labor Day weekend — Monday's average was 879.
The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 84,881, according to the DHS. A total of 1,193 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, with 10 new deaths reported on Thursday.
According to DHS, 17.5 percent of all test results reported on Thursday were positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall percentage of positive tests over the past seven days to 13.4 — also a record high for the state. That figure has been rising since Aug. 23, when it was 7.5 percent.
The percentage of positive cases 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 38,530 as of Thursday. The number of actual people with test results reported on Thursday was 8,822.
Overall, DHS has recorded a total of 1,330,329 people's test results over the course of the pandemic. 1,245,448 have tested 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 65 counties had a "high level" of coronavirus activity. 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 were Forest, Portage, Brown and Kewaunee. The counties with the most significant upward trends were Grant, Marquette, Green and Door.
Every Wisconsin county has reported at least one new COVID-19 case over the last two weeks, although Price County is experiencing a low level of coronavirus activity, according to DHS.
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 currently does not meet either criteria.
According to DHS, 6,222 people have been hospitalized because of the virus as of Thursday. That means at least 7.3 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 29,001 people, or 34 percent.