Rising again: Dane Co. very close to ‘Very High’ COVID-19 case activity

Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 3:49 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The plummeting COVID-19 case counts in Wisconsin appear to be over for now. The latest Dept. of Health Services COVID-19 case activity report shows a sharp increase in the case burden statewide and one county returning to “Very High” activity.

The report also places Dane Co. right on the cusp of seeing its level jump from “High” to “Very High” activity, the latter being the second most severe classification on DHS’ scale. To cross the threshold, the county would need to see a case burden of 350 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week span. Right now, DHS reports Madison and the surrounding area’s burden at 338 cases – the second highest level in the state – and points out that its case trajectory rose 20 percent since last Wednesday’s update. The burden would only need to rise another four percent for Dane Co. to be painted the orange denoting “Very High” activity on the DHS map.

The one county that is already orange is Buffalo Co., in the western part of the state. Its case burden blew past the 400-case point since last week’s update. However, state health officials noted the trajectory seemed to have leveled off in that time. It has been just over a month since DHS recorded a county had “Very High” case activity. That March 9 report also showed a sole orange county: Buffalo.

The latest report pegs the statewide case burden at 152.3 cases per 100,000 residents over the preceding fortnight, a nearly 60 percent increase since the previous report. That figure had dropped into the low 90s as recently as late March before starting to climb again. In the last report of March, two counties in northern Wisconsin reached the “Low” category. Now, none of them are there, and only ten remain in at the “Medium” level.

COVID-19 Disease Activity, on April 13, 2022.
COVID-19 Disease Activity, on April 13, 2022.(Dept. of Health Services)

Beyond case burdens, the coronavirus spread can be seen in the absolute number of cases being recorded. On Wednesday, state health officials tallied nearly 800 positive tests in the past day. That’s the highest one-day total since late February, excepting for Friday’s total, which was buoyed by a dump of previously unrecorded cases from earlier in the year.

The recently cleared backlog of confirmed positive tests means the average number of cases per day recorded across Wisconsin remains elevated, state health officials noted. However, even with the inflated numbers, the seven-day rolling-average for new cases jumped by roughly 10% in the past two days and now sits at 673 cases per day over the past week.

While the current rolling average may be inflated by the artificial spike late last week, but the rise from 618 cases per day to the current figure would be the direct result of a growing number of actual positive tests. It also continues the trend from prior to the backlog which had been rising for more than a week straight.

The most recent figure puts right on the brink of crossing another milestone in the fight against the pandemic. DHS numbers’ show the state is just 77 positive tests away from 1.4 million total cases in Wisconsin since the pandemic began.

Cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19 by date, confirmed, on April 13, 2022.
Cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19 by date, confirmed, on April 13, 2022.(Dept. of Health Services)

Hospitalizations are showing some signs of the resurgence as well. Whereas in early March, every one of the seven regions into which DHS divides the state was seeing a decrease in hospitalizations, only two are now seeing their numbers go down, the Milwaukee region and the northwest corner of the state. In the Fox Valley area, admittances are shown as growing. No region had been in the growing category since mid-January when the seven-day rolling average in Wisconsin was hitting its peak and daily counts were jumping by more than 13,000 cases each day, on average.

Overall, the two shrinking regions offset the one growing territory as DHS reports no significant change in the number of patients hospitalized or that have been admitted into intensive care units.

The one high-profile metric that has remained so far immune from the recent rise, although it tends to be a lagging indicator, is the number of people who have died from COVID-19 or complications related to the virus.

The state is averaging two deaths per day over the seven days, a level it hit earlier this week and the lowest average since last summer. In all, DHS has recorded 12,851 deaths since the pandemic began.

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