Jeramey Jannene

State Reports 457 COVID-19 Cases, Up From 416

But officials say actual total is higher. "We have a limited window into the number of cases."

By - Mar 24th, 2020 03:09 pm
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COVID-19. Credit: U.S. Army.

COVID-19. Credit: U.S. Army.

Every day at 2 p.m. the Department of Health Services updates the total number of individuals that have tested positive and negative for COVID-19 in Wisconsin.

Tuesday’s totals are 457 positive cases (up from 416) and 8,237 negative cases (up from 7,030).

But that data is already out of date by the time it’s published. It’s from 9 p.m. the night before.

The state cites a total of 219 Milwaukee County cases in its 2 p.m. report. But at 6:00 a.m., eight hours earlier, Milwaukee County’s own public tracker already was reporting 243 cases.

That number rose to 268 at 2:30 p.m., pushing the state’s total over 500.

Even if the state had instantaneous data on the number of tests, it wouldn’t be the complete picture. There aren’t enough tests to test everyone showing symptoms. Labs are instructed to use a four-tier system that prioritizes those hospitalized and healthcare workers to determine what tests to process.

“We have a limited window into the number of cases,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases, during a Tuesday afternoon media briefing. “It’s almost certainly quite a bit larger than the 450 cases than we have.”

The state’s testing total, including positive and negative cases, did bounce back from a one-day slowdown.

Curve Might Not Flatten for At Least A Week

Even with social distancing and a new state “safer at home” order, don’t expect the cases to slow in the next week warned Westergaard.

“Even if we do everything right, we might see a doubling in the near future,” said Westergaard of the number of cases.

“Keeping our healthcare system from being overwhelmed is our number one priority,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. The state’s strategy is focused on “flattening the curve” or slowing the spread of the disease to reduce the demand on the healthcare system even if the same number of people get infected over a longer period of time.

Mayor Tom Barrett detailed why that strategy is important yesterday afternoon, illustrating a scenario where the state winds up short 56,000 hospital beds by maintaining the status quo.

Barrett had relied on data Westergaard shared earlier in the day that only 10 percent of people infected would need to be hospitalized. Unfortunately, that scenario is now off by a factor of two. “In reality, we believe that number is higher, possibly as high as 20 percent,” said Westergaard in correcting his Monday remarks. Meaning the potential to run out of hospital beds could be much higher than Barrett had estimated.

What can you do to help? “We need you to be in physical contact with as few people as possible,” said Palm.

NOTE: All data are laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported as of 9 p.m. the previous evening.

Wisconsin COVID-19 Test Results

Test Results Number of People
Negative 8237
Positive 457
Deaths 5

Number of Positive Results by County

Wisconsin County Total Cases Total Deaths
Bayfield 1 0
Brown* 3 0
Calumet 1 0
Chippewa 2 0
Columbia* 5 0
Dane* 72 0
Dodge 2 0
Douglas 4 0
Dunn 1 0
Eau Claire 4 0
Fond du Lac* 18 1
Green 1 0
Jefferson 4 0
Kenosha* 13 0
La Crosse 5 0
Marathon 1 0
Milwaukee* 219 3
Outagamie 2 0
Ozaukee 16 1
Pierce 3 0
Racine 5 0
Rock 3 0
Sauk 4 0
Sheboygan 6 0
St. Croix 4 0
Walworth* 4 0
Washington 17 0
Waukesha* 31 0
Winnebago 5 0
Wood 1 0
Total 457 5

* An asterisk indicates community spread has been identified.

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