In addition to rising case counts, the state’s seven-day average for positive COVID-19 tests was above 9% on Friday, nearly double the rate that health experts recommend.
A high positivity rate can be a sign that a state is only testing its sickest patients and failing to cast a net wide enough to accurately capture community transmission, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The World Health Organization recommends that governments get their positivity testing threshold below 5%.
Following the spike in cases, Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, issued an emergency order and declared a public health emergency in the state on Sept. 22, including a statewide mask mandate. Republican members of Congress have since filed a lawsuit attempting to block Evers’ statewide mask mandate.
“Wisconsin is in the midst of a pandemic that is growing at a near-exponential rate,” according to the governor’s office.
The governor also pointed the finger at college students who have returned to campus in person this fall. “College and university students are driving the increase in cases, with the highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in 18- to 24-year-olds,” according to the governor’s office.
“I am concerned about the alarming trends of COVID-19 we’re seeing across our state,” Evers said at a press conference last week. “The longer it takes for everyone to take COVID-19 seriously, the longer this virus will linger.”
Experts consider deaths from COVID-19 to be a lagging indictor of the outbreak’s severity, meaning that since deaths trail rising infections, positivity rates and hospitalizations, deaths typically reflect long-term trends, not in-the-moment severity.