35,000 new COVID-19 cases reported as DHS clears backlog

Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 2:45 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Dept. of Health Services’ effort to clears its backlog of new COVID-19 cases didn’t take the day off Monday as the agency reported tens of thousands of more positive tests.

On Friday, state health officials warned case reports would skyrocket to artificially high levels over the coming days. They explained that a change in how new cases were reported at the state level would result in a deluge of cases as the growing backlog gets cleared out.

On that first day of the agency’s effort to catch up, it reported more than 20,000 positive tests, but that was nothing compared to day two on Monday. The latest Dept. of Health Services report added 35,746 confirmed cases over the holiday weekend. Driven by the inflated numbers of the past two reports, the seven-day rolling average ballooned to 17,916 cases per day over the past week.

While prior to the change, which allowed cases to be counted when reported rather than when they were fully processed, Dept. of Health Services numbers would have been lower than the reality faced by local health departments, now the pendulum has swung the other way. DHS has not indicated how long the outsized reports will last, nor have they responded to NBC15 News questions about how large the backlog currently is.

At the peak of the discrepancies between state and local numbers, Public Health Madison and Dane Co. was reporting more than 2,000 cases while DHS numbers stood in the hundreds. PHMDC did not release an updated report Monday because of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

With the latest surge, DHS has reported 1,210,198 cases since the pandemic began. Even with the suppressed numbers during the bulk of the month, DHS has reported more than 200,000 cases since the beginning of the year.

While cases went off the charts for two days straight, and maybe for more days in the near future, the average number of deaths per day reported statewide have stayed within recent parameters. No deaths were reported Monday, allowing that seven-day rolling average to slip to 21 per day over the past week.

The drop of so many cases also did not seem to affect the percentage of tests recorded that come back positive. The latest DHS figure finds just over a quarter of tests, 27.8 percent, were confirmed cases. While extraordinarily high by historical standards, in which ten percent was considered worrisome, it is not far from the level established since the latest overall increase started in August and ramped up in late November through now.

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