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Dashboard addition shows impact of COVID-19 cases

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), has added a “critically high” category to the Disease Activity Dashboard, to give Wisconsinites a better picture of the impact of COVID-19 in the state. This new category indicates how alarming COVID- 19 activity is in counties and regions throughout Wisconsin.

The “critically high” category is nearly three times higher than “very high.” Currently, the state and 65 counties are at the “critically high” level.

New testing data, now available at the county level, also provides further insights about the COVID-19 infections in communities. Looking at percent positive by test, which counts people each time they are tested, is an important way to understand how prevalent the COVID-19 virus is in each jurisdiction.

The updated dashboard also includes the number of daily tests administered by region and county, as well as the seven- day average tests administered and test positivity.

“Far too many of our communities are in a dire situation,” said DHS deputy secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk. “To put these new data in perspective, Wisconsin is now seeing more average cases per day, than New York City did at the peak of its surge last spring. Because of these critically high levels of disease, public health can no longer adequately contact trace, hospital beds are filled with patients with COVID- 19 and too many Wisconsin families are losing loved ones to this virus.”

An Executive Order (94), was signed into effect Nov. 10, outlining steps each Wisconsinite can take to protect their family, friends and neighbors, including wearing a mask and maintaining six feet of distance from others when they have to leave their homes.

Also critical to understanding of the burden of COVID-19 across the state, are probable cases and probable deaths. An added feature is available for daily cases and deaths, as well as cumulative cases and deaths on the county data page. With the growing use of antigen tests, especially in group and outbreak settings, there will likely be an increase in the number of probable cases.

A probable case of COVID-19, is anyone who is not positive by a confirmatory laboratory test method (like a PCR or NAT test), but has met a positive test result from an antigen test; has symptoms of COVID-19 and known exposure to COVID-19; or who has COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 is listed on the death certificate.

Any positive test result by antigen testing is counted as a probable COVID-19 case, because antigen tests are not as accurate as other diagnostic tests, such as PCR and NAT tests. In particular, antigen tests are less accurate at identifying positive cases – meaning, someone who tests negative, but has symptoms or is a close contact of a positive case, may need to be tested again.

A probable death because of COVID-19, includes anyone who is reported to have died from causes related to COVID- 19. It also includes those who have a death certificate that lists COVID-19 disease or SARS- CoV-2 as an underlying cause of death, or a significant condition contributing to death, is reported to the DHS, but the WEDSS has no record of confirmatory laboratory evidence for SARS-CoV-2.

In addition to motivating personal behavior change, these additions to the DHS COVID-19 data pages are intended to assist local decision-making, on how to fight back against the virus in communities.

“By helping people see the critically high level of disease in their counties and regions,” said Van Dijk, “we hope these data enhancements will help people make important decisions to stay home, in order to stop the spread of COVID- 19.”