Wisconsin has more than 5,000 COVID-19 cases as testing gets more aggressive

Published: Apr. 23, 2020 at 2:24 PM CDT
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An aggressive increase in testing for COVID-19 in Wisconsin resulted in another large increase in positive cases.

The Wisconsin Department of Human Services reports 5,052 patients have tested positive for COVID-19 since early February. That's 207 more than yesterday.

But it also reflects the results of 2,161 new tests coming back in the latest 24-hour period, compared to almost 1,900 the day before, and about 1,300 the day before that.

9.58% of tests that came back in the past hours were positive. That's a decline from Wednesday, when almost 12% of tests were positive.

Going back to February, 51,456 tests for COVID-19 came back negative.

The numbers of cases and deaths by county are below.

Hospital conditions

1,318 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized during treatment, or 26%. That's 16 more patients than Wednesday, but in terms of percentage it shows a one-point decline.

349 patients are currently hospitalized. Of those, 315 are on mechanical ventilation. 146 are in intensive care. Another 201 people in hospitals are suspected of having COVID-19 but waiting for test results.

Thirty-five percent of hospital beds in the state are still available.

Outbreaks linked to meat packing plants

More than 500 COVID-19 cases are confirmed in Brown County, and the county public health department says traced back to meat packing plants -- either employees or members of their household -- including 189 cases traced back to JBS alone (


According to ABC News, JBS voluntarily closed a meat packing plant in western Michigan last weekend when 60 workers tested positive and suspended operations at a pork processing plant in southwestern Minnesota when 33 employees tested positive.

In a conference call Thursday afternoon, we asked Gov. Tony Evers and state health officials at what point the state should step in.

"I don't know the answer to that," the governor admitted, looking to the health officials on the call.

"We have been working closely with the hospital and with the local public health, and in contact with those employers as well. I think we are trying to balance all of these factors as we try to understand the prevalence of the outbreak there. I do think...well...I...I ... I don't want to... There's some talk about whether there are supply chain issues there that would result in there not being actual work to be done, at least at one of the facilities," Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said, then asked the state's infectious disease specialist to help answer the question.

"I think it's an evolving situation. We have to work in close partnership with the facilities, the local public health, to do the right thing. I think we are still working on exactly the best strategy," Dr. Ryan Westergaard said.

Brown County Public Health officials it was working with the food plants but closing any plant in the county was not on the table, though it would support a voluntary shutdown if a company chose to do so.


DHS has started reporting the number of people who have recovered from coronavirus in Wisconsin. As of April 23, the state had 2,313 recoveries, or 46 percent of cases.

The state uses these guidelines to track recoveries:

--Documentation of resolved symptoms

--Documentation of release from public health isolation

--30 days since symptom onset or diagnosis


Counties with additional cases and/or deaths are indicated in bold text


Adams - 4 cases (1 death)

Ashland - 2 cases

Barron - 6 cases

Bayfield - 3 cases (1 death)

Brown - 455 cases

(2 deaths)

Buffalo - 4 cases (1 death)

Burnett - 0 cases

Calumet - 6 cases

Chippewa - 20 cases

Clark - 18 cases (1 death)

Columbia - 27 cases (1 death)

Crawford - 3 cases

Dane - 387 cases (21 deaths)

Dodge - 20 cases (1 death)

Door - 9 cases (1 death)

Douglas - 9 cases

Dunn - 9 cases

Eau Claire - 23 cases

Florence - 2 cases

Fond du Lac - 66 cases

(3 deaths)

Forest - 0 cases

Grant - 26 cases

(3 deaths)

Green - 10 cases

Green Lake - 1 case

Iowa - 7 cases

Iron - 2 cases (1 death)

Jackson - 12 cases (1 death)

Jefferson - 37 cases

Juneau - 11 cases (1 death)

Kenosha - 294 cases

(6 deaths)

Kewaunee - 10 cases

(1 death)

La Crosse - 25 cases

Lafayette - 4 cases

Langlade - 0 cases

Lincoln - 0 cases

Manitowoc - 7 cases

Marathon - 17 cases (1 death)

Marinette - 8 cases

(1 death)

Marquette - 3 cases (1 death)

Menominee - 1 case

Milwaukee - 2,382 cases (150 deaths)
Monroe - 14 cases

Oconto - 5 cases

Oneida - 6 cases

Outagamie - 38 cases

(2 deaths)

Ozaukee - 80 cases (9 deaths)

Pepin - 0 cases

Pierce - 8 cases

Polk - 4 cases

Portage - 4 cases

Price - 1 case

Racine - 215 cases

(10 deaths)

Richland - 10 cases

(1 death)

Rock - 99 cases

(4 deaths)

Rusk - 4 cases

Sauk - 37 cases

(3 deaths)

Sawyer - 2 cases

Shawano - 6 cases

Sheboygan - 44 cases (2 deaths)

St. Croix - 13 cases

Taylor - 0 cases

Trempealeau - 1 case

Vernon - 0 cases

Vilas - 4 cases

Walworth - 100 cases

(7 deaths)

Washburn - 1 case

Washington - 90 cases

(4 deaths)

Waukesha - 280 cases (14 deaths)
Waupaca - 6 cases

(1 death)

Waushara - 2 cases

Winnebago - 46 cases

(1 death)

Wood - 2 cases

Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Alger - 0 cases

Baraga - 0 cases

Chippewa - 1 case

Delta - 12 cases (2 deaths)

Dickinson - 3 cases (2 deaths)

Gogebic - 4 cases (1 death)

Houghton - 2 cases

Iron - 0 cases

Keweenaw - 0 cases

Luce - 1 cases

Mackinac - 5 cases

Marquette - 35 cases (6 deaths)

Menominee - 2 cases

Ontonagon - 0 cases

Schoolcraft - 3 cases

Other cases

Brown County Public Health reported 101 more positive tests Thursday morning. Most of those numbers were not reflected in the state total.

An outbreak is tied to three meat packing plants and the households of their employees. Health officials also blame people having social gatherings during the Safer at Home order, including during Easter weekend. Like the state, the higher numbers are following a sharp increase in testing.

Officials with the City of Appleton confirmed their 14th case of COVID-19. City officials announced two new cases Thursday morning.

They say there are currently 7 people in isolation, and 6 who have had COVID-19 have been released.

City officials say one person has passed away from the virus. Outagamie County has two deaths total from the disease.

Symptoms and Prevention

Brown County Public Health strongly emphasizes the need to maintain physical distance, saying its recent surge is the result of people spreading the virus by close contact. It says people are safer in their homes and should reduce contact with people outside of their household, even with other relatives.

People of all ages can get sick from the coronavirus. It's a new virus, and nobody has natural immunity to it. The CDC says symptoms may appear between 2 and 14 days after contact with an infected person, but studies find 1 in 4 people carrying (and potentially spreading) the virus may have no symptoms.

Symptoms include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Emergency signs include pain and pressure in the chest, confusion, trouble breathing, and bluish lips or face.

"The virus is found in droplets from the throat and nose. When someone coughs or sneezes, other people near them can breathe in those droplets. The virus can also spread when someone touches an object with the virus on it. If that person touches their mouth, face, or eyes, the virus can make them sick," says DHS.

Older people and those with underlying health conditions (heart disease, diabetes, lung disease) are considered at high risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Precautions are also needed around people with developing or weakened immune systems, including young children, pregnant women and certain medical patients.

To help prevent the spread of the virus:

  • Stay at least six feet away from other people.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay at home as much as possible. Cancel events and avoid groups, gatherings, play dates and nonessential appointments
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care
  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a mask. At a minimum, use a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean frequently-touched surfaces and objects daily (e.g., tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles).

The state does not report the number of patients who are recovered, saying there's no standard for measuring recovery. The CDC says health care workers can return to work if they go 72 hours without a fever without fever-reducing medication and it's been at least 7 days since the onset of symptoms; and preferably, they're retested for COVID-19 and get two consecutive negative test results from nasal swabs at least 24 hours apart. Michigan Public Health, for comparison, considers a patient recovered if they're alive 30 days after the onset of symptoms.