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Average of new coronavirus cases falls to 8-month low even as positive tests rise for 3rd day

The state also reports 1 in 6 Wisconsinites received at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine
Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 2:06 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 4, 2021 at 2:33 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) – Wisconsin saw new coronavirus cases rise significantly for a third straight day, but the 7-day average shows the trend of new cases is the lowest since July 3.

The Department of Health Services reported 677 new cases on Thursday, the most since Saturday’s count of 689. That’s 138 more cases than Wednesday, and more than twice as many cases as Tuesday. But let’s give those numbers more context:

The state received 4,826 results for people being tested for the coronavirus for the first time or testing positive for the first time. That’s 1,000 more tests than Wednesday, and twice as many test results as Tuesday. The percentage that came back positive, looking only at these first-time tests, was similar: 13.42% on Tuesday, 14.09% on Wednesday, 14.03% of tests on Thursday.

When you look at ALL of the test results, including people tested multiple times, the positivity rate is much lower. The 7-day average was 2.5% on Wednesday. (The positivity rate by this measure is always at least a day behind and the numbers are preliminary because some negative tests are still under review.) Now, that metric has climbed from 2.1% earlier this week, which is a bit of a concern for state health leaders, so they’re watching it closely and urging people not to let their guard down.

Wisconsin reported fewer deaths Thursday than the past two days. Twelve deaths were added to COVID-19′s death toll, which is now 6,470 people. The state is averaging 11 deaths per day, the lowest 7-day average since October 8. A week ago, that average had risen to 23 deaths a day.

Deaths were reported in Brown, Columbia, Dane (5), Dodge, Dunn, Manitowoc, Vilas (2) and Waushara counties. The death count was revised in Waupaca County.

New cases were identified in 59 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. Sixteen counties added just 1 or 2 new cases.

County by county case and death figures are listed later in this article.

Deputy Health Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk says there are now 19 confirmed cases of the UK variant of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, which is a more contagious mutation of the virus. She cautions 19 is a conservative number because a small fraction of coronavirus cases are tested to see if it’s one of the variants.

“Those of you who are eligible, please get your vaccine. And for all of us who are still waiting, we need to continue doing what we know works,” she said.

Health officials emphasize the importance of continuing the safe practices of wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing. In a health briefing Thursday afternoon, they begged people to give these at least two more months for more people to get vaccinated and the weather improves so more social events can be outdoors.

VACCINATIONS

The state launched a toll-free hotline to answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines: 1-844-684-1064. Call center staff can help to find a vaccinator and assist with registering for an appointment. The hotline is especially intended for people who don’t have internet access, so please share this with anyone you know who could benefit. The state is still in the process of rolling out a statewide vaccine registry.

“Those who are eligible and want the vaccine will be able to as supply allows, and we’re excited that this call center can help them do it,” DHS Interim Secretary Karen Timberlake said.

The state is about to pass 1 million Wisconsinites getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Thursday the DHS reported 986,387 people received at least one dose since vaccinations began. That’s 34,886 more than the state reported Wednesday. We’re 14,000 shy of a million, while the state is averaging 20,061 “shots in the arm” per day over the last 7 days. Keep in mind that these numbers are a day or two behind as vaccinators’ reports are still coming in, so we may have already passed that milestone.

Already, more than 1 in 6 people in Wisconsin have received at least one dose of vaccine. As we reported Wednesday, more than 1.5 million shots have been administered.

Almost 550,000 people (548,343) have completed the two-dose regimen. We could see the number of people inoculated jump when the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is delivered to Wisconsin next week and distributed to educators.

Daily reports already show a sharp rise in people getting their first dose of a vaccine, because more doses are available or because more people became eligible for the vaccine on Monday, or both. Here are the percentages of each age population receiving the vaccine and the change in the numbers since Wednesday:

Age group% of age group
receiving at least 1 shot
% of age group
fully vaccinated
16-170.7% (+0.1)0.4% (no change)
18-245.8% (+0.2)3.9% (+0.1)
25-3410.4% (+0.4)7.6% (+0.1)
35-4412.6% (+0.6)9.0% (+0.1)
45-5412.4% (+0.6)8.6% (+0.1)
55-6412.8% (+0.6)8.3% (+0.2)
65 and up58.3% (+1.7)27.2% (+1.9)
WI population16.9% (+0.6)9.4% (+0.4)

Wisconsin is on pace this week to have more people inoculated against COVID-19 than tested positive for the virus that causes it. However, health officials remind people the vaccine protects you from the coronavirus developing into COVID-19 or lessens the symptoms of the disease but you could still be a carrier. For this and other reasons, health experts aren’t sure when we’ll achieve herd immunity from the coronavirus (see related story).

CLICK HERE CLICK HERE for the Action 2 News guide to vaccine clinics and vaccinators, including phone numbers and websites to make appointments and information on free rides to appointments in Calumet, Outagamie and Winnebago counties.

HOSPITALIZATIONS

The DHS reported 51 new COVID-19 hospitalizations in the past 24-hour period. The hospitalization rate for COVID-19 rose to 4.7% of all cases Wednesday. To date, 26,330 people have been hospitalized at some point for serious symptoms of the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Current hospitalizations are the lowest we’ve ever recorded, with our data going back to August 1, 2020. Taking discharges and deaths into account, the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) reported 262 COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals Wednesday, with 67 in ICU -- two fewer in ICU and 5 fewer patients overall than Wednesday.

Locally, there are 11 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the Fox Valley region, with 3 in ICU. The number in ICU was the same for a second day; it’s 3 fewer patients overall compared to the day before.

In the Northeast region, 39 patients are being treated, including 10 in ICU. That’s 4 more patients overall but the same number in ICU as Tuesday.

HOSPITAL READINESS

In terms of hospital readiness, the WHA reported the state’s 134 hospitals had a total 324 ICU beds (22.1%) and 2,158 of all medical beds (19.3%) -- ICU, intermediate care, medical surgical and negative flow isolation beds -- available on Thursday.

The Fox Valley’s 13 hospitals had only 6 ICU beds available Thursday -- six more than the day before. There were 84 of all types of medical beds open (9.8%) open for the eight counties they serve.

In the Northeast region, the 10 hospitals had 50 ICU beds (24.2%) and 226 of all medical beds (23.6%) available.

These are beds for all patients, not just COVID-19, and because a bed is open or available doesn’t mean a hospital can put a patient in it if there isn’t enough staffing, including doctors, nurses and food services.

MORE VACCINE INFORMATION

Free rides to and from COVID-19 vaccination appointments in Calumet, Outagamie and Winnebago counties are available to residents of those counties. Find details about transportation options and more in our guide to vaccination clinics and vaccinators (CLICK HERE).

The state says its allocation of single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be directed to educators, since vaccinating teachers and staff with one shot will cause less disruption to the school schedule. Officials don’t know when the state will get more of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after the initial shipment of 47,000 doses, because every dose that was manufactured so far is being distributed.

THURSDAY’S COUNTY CASE AND DEATH TOTALS (Counties with new cases or deaths are indicated in bold) *

Wisconsin

  • Adams – 1,585 cases (+2) (10 deaths)
  • Ashland – 1,174 cases (16 deaths)
  • Barron – 5,401 cases (+8) (76 deaths)
  • Bayfield - 1,067 cases (+1) (19 deaths)
  • Brown – 30,301 cases (+50) (225 deaths) (+1)
  • Buffalo – 1,320 cases (7 deaths)
  • Burnett – 1,209 cases (+1) (23 deaths)
  • Calumet – 5,488 cases (+4) (43 deaths)
  • Chippewa – 7,065 cases (+8) (93 deaths)
  • Clark – 3,159 cases (+1) (57 deaths)
  • Columbia – 5,057 cases (+5) (54 deaths) (+1)
  • Crawford – 1,667 cases (17 deaths)
  • Dane – 40,763 (+122) (278 deaths) (+5)
  • Dodge – 11,445 cases (+3) (156 deaths) (+1)
  • Door – 2,427 cases (+4) (20 deaths)
  • Douglas – 3,645 cases (+5) (26 deaths)
  • Dunn – 4,283 cases (+7) (29 deaths) (+1)
  • Eau Claire – 11,058 cases (+25) (105 deaths)
  • Florence - 434 cases (12 deaths)
  • Fond du Lac – 12,026 cases (+7) (96 deaths)
  • Forest - 925 cases (+1) (23 deaths)
  • Grant – 4,661 cases (+1) (81 deaths)
  • Green – 3,178 cases (+8) (16 deaths)
  • Green Lake - 1,521 cases (+2) (18 deaths)
  • Iowa - 1,866 cases (+3) (10 deaths)
  • Iron - 550 cases (+4) (21 deaths)
  • Jackson - 2,583 cases (+3) (23 deaths)
  • Jefferson – 7,890 cases (+8) (111 deaths)
  • Juneau - 2,997 cases (+2) (19 deaths)
  • Kenosha – 14,898 cases (+22) (300 deaths)
  • Kewaunee – 2,415 cases (+1) (28 deaths)
  • La Crosse – 12,277 cases (+9) (80 deaths)
  • Lafayette - 1,459 cases (7 deaths)
  • Langlade - 1,936 cases (+2) (32 deaths)
  • Lincoln – 2,915 cases (58 deaths)
  • Manitowoc – 7,250 cases (+4) (64 deaths) (+1)
  • Marathon – 13,661 cases (181 deaths) (cases revised -7 by state)
  • Marinette - 3,966 cases (+4) (63 deaths)
  • Marquette – 1,307 cases (21 deaths)
  • Menominee - 795 cases (11 deaths)
  • Milwaukee – 98,479 (+81) (1,244 deaths)
  • Monroe – 4,333 cases (+8) (31 deaths)
  • Oconto – 4,278 cases (+7) (48 deaths)
  • Oneida - 3,403 cases (+7) (69 deaths)
  • Outagamie – 19,355 cases (+39) (197 deaths)
  • Ozaukee – 7,648 cases (+12) (78 deaths)
  • Pepin – 806 cases (7 deaths)
  • Pierce – 3,489 cases (+1) (33 deaths)
  • Polk – 3,947 cases (+11) (44 deaths)
  • Portage – 6,490 cases (+7) (64 deaths)
  • Price – 1,163 cases (+1) (7 deaths)
  • Racine – 20,408 cases (+19) (323 deaths)
  • Richland - 1,289 cases (+1) (15 deaths)
  • Rock – 14,445 cases (+14) (159 deaths)
  • Rusk - 1,258 cases (+1) (16 deaths)
  • Sauk – 5,300 cases (+3) (42 deaths)
  • Sawyer - 1,520 cases (21 deaths) (cases revised -1 by state)
  • Shawano – 4,599 cases (+3) (70 deaths)
  • Sheboygan – 12,947 cases (+17) (131 deaths)
  • St. Croix – 6,421 cases (+6) (43 deaths)
  • Taylor - 1,766 cases (21 deaths) (cases revised -18 by state)
  • Trempealeau – 3,401 cases (+1) (37 deaths)
  • Vernon – 1,835 cases (+2) (37 deaths)
  • Vilas - 2,151 cases (+7) (38 deaths) (+2)
  • Walworth – 8,869 cases (+10) (129 deaths)
  • Washburn – 1,298 cases (+2) (18 deaths)
  • Washington – 13,811 cases (+20) (135 deaths)
  • Waukesha – 40,829 cases (+66) (484 deaths)
  • Waupaca – 4,763 cases (111 deaths) (cases revised -11 by state, deaths revised -1)
  • Waushara – 2,104 cases (+5) (32 deaths) (+1)
  • Winnebago – 17,101 cases (+27) (183 deaths)
  • Wood – 6,678 cases (+9) (74 deaths)

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula **

  • Alger - 278 cases (1 death)
  • Baraga - 507 cases (32 deaths)
  • Chippewa - 729 cases (+3) (23 deaths)
  • Delta – 2,671 cases (+4) (65 deaths)
  • Dickinson - 2,133 cases (+2) (55 deaths)
  • Gogebic - 936 cases (+1) (20 deaths)
  • Houghton – 2,139 cases (+4) (32 deaths) (deaths revised -1 by state)
  • Iron – 866 cases (40 deaths)
  • Keweenaw – 115 cases (1 death)
  • Luce – 132 cases
  • Mackinac - 292 cases (3 deaths)
  • Marquette - 3,466 cases (+3) (55 deaths)
  • Menominee - 1,617 cases (+0) (36 deaths) (+1)
  • Ontonagon – 359 cases (+1) (19 deaths)
  • Schoolcraft - 230 cases (+1) (4 deaths)

* Cases and deaths are from the daily DHS COVID-19 reports, which may differ from local health department numbers. The DHS reports cases from all health departments within a county’s boundaries, including tribal, municipal and county health departments; county websites may not. Also, public health departments update their data at various times, whereas the DHS freezes the numbers it receives by the same time every day to compile the afternoon report.

The DHS reports deaths attributed to COVID-19 or in which COVID-19 contributed to their death. Most of the people severely affected by the coronavirus have underlying illnesses or conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or obesity, which raises a person’s risk of dying from COVID-19. They would’ve lived longer if not for their infection. The state may revise case and death numbers after further review, such as the victim’s residence, duplicated records, or a correction in lab results. Details can be found on the DHS website and Frequently Asked Questions.

**The state of Michigan does not update numbers on Sundays. Monday’s numbers include updates since Saturday’s reporting deadline.

COVID-19 Tracing App

Wisconsin’s COVID-19 tracing app, “Wisconsin Exposure Notification,” is available for iOS and Android smartphones. No download is required for iPhones. The Android app is available on Google Play. When two phones with the app (and presumably their owners) are close enough, for long enough, they’ll anonymously share a random string of numbers via Bluetooth. If someone tests positive for the coronavirus, they’ll receive a code to type into the app. If your phones “pinged” each other in the last 14 days, you’ll receive a push notification that you are at risk of exposure. The app doesn’t collect personal information or location information, so you won’t know from whom or where, but you will be told what day the exposure might have occurred so that you can quarantine for the appropriate amount of time.

Symptoms

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified these as possible symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Fever of 100.4 or higher
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

Prevention

Nobody has a natural immunity to the coronavirus. Children and teens seem to recover best from the virus. Older people and those with underlying health conditions (heart disease, diabetes, lung disease) are considered at high risk, according to the CDC. Precautions are also needed around people with developing or weakened immune systems. To help prevent the spread of the virus:

  • Wear a face mask in public
  • Stay at least six feet away from people from outside your household
  • Avoid close contact with people who are or appear sick
  • Stay at home as much as possible
  • Don’t go to work if you feel sick
  • Cancel events and avoid groups, gatherings, play dates and non-essential appointments

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