Inflated COVID-19 numbers are over, but they’re still at record highs

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – The number of COVID-19 cases statewide is back to normal now after four days of extraordinarily high daily numbers caused by a backlog of reports from the Department of Health Services that saw the number of new cases reach 38,000 in one day.

That said, Wednesday’s total for new confirmed cases (12,909) still ranks fifth all-time. According to a DHS official, the agency had cleared pending cases on Monday and reports for Tuesday and Wednesday would be “a more accurate reflection of the actual number of new cases coming into the system (daily).”

On Tuesday, the agency reported 14,994 new confirmed cases, which would be the highest single-day total, not including days affected by the change, eclipsing the 14,311 count reported the day before before officials said. State health does warn to expect several days of inflated reports. The new case count fell slightly on Wednesday, to 12,909 confirmed cases.

Those three days, which included three of the six highest on record (excluding recent inflated numbers) in addition to four days when DHS had older cases on file, the seven-day rolling average remained at a disproportionate level of 18,473 cases per day over the past week. Although the measure is normally used to smooth out daily fluctuations, it will likely remain excessively high through next Tuesday as it will continue to include at least some effects of changes made by the state agency.

Department of Health Services case on January 19, 2022.(Department of Health Services)

A DHS official had confirmed earlier in the day that the blockage had been resolved with the previous day’s report. Bureau of Communicable Disease Director Traci DeSalvo explained that with these cases now included in the tallies, any new cases reported will automatically be imported into her system as they come in. Before Friday, positive cases had to be entered manually before being included.

With its queue now empty, DHS has opened up more about the causes of the situation that has caused tens of thousands of cases to pile up waiting to be processed. In a meeting with reporters, DeSalvo said agency officials have begun to see additional cases not included in daily reports beginning to increase over the past two weeks. DHS decided to switch to the self-import system that was already in place for negative cases for positive cases to report them in a timely manner, she continued.

Even with the new system in place to register new cases more quickly, the percentage of reported tests that come back positive has remained stable. The DHS reported a positive percentage of 27% on Wednesday, matching previous days which were also around a quarter.

Deaths also remained within recent trends as cases increased. However, they soared on Wednesday, reaching 65 newly confirmed deaths from complications related to COVID-19, the highest number reported in more than a year. Someone would have to go back to January 15, 2021, when 78 deaths were recorded to find a higher one-day total. The seven-day moving average rose to 27 per day over the past week, but remained in the same range it had been since early December.

Daily COVID-19 deaths reported by the Department of Health on January 19, 2022.
Daily COVID-19 deaths reported by the Department of Health on January 19, 2022.(Department of Health Services)

Runaway Case Activity

The state’s case activity report that is released every Wednesday appears to be the latest upset in recent days. With every county and the state as a whole already ranking in extremely high activity, the number of reported cases soared – despite the fact that half of the data from the weekly reports, each of which covers a two-week period, are the same.

Wisconsin’s case activity has reached nearly 4,200 cases per 100,000 population, according to the report, up from nearly 2,500 reported last Wednesday. Either of those numbers is still well over 1,000 cases per 100,000 who qualify as critical.

Dane Co. saw an even bigger jump. Its case activity has quadrupled from 1,284 cases per 100,000 last week to 5,195 now.

NBC15 News has contacted DHS to confirm that these numbers would have been affected by the recent change and will update this story if they respond. If it’s true that the inflated numbers are being passed to this tracker, it should affect next week’s case activity, as that would also include last week.

Ministry of Health Services COVID-19 Weekly Activity Report, January 19, 2022.
Ministry of Health Services COVID-19 Weekly Activity Report, January 19, 2022.(Department of Health Services)

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