JEFFERSON — On a day when the baseball season suddenly was in doubt and the government still was deciding on stimulus relief, Jefferson County hit a milestone, topping 500 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic in mid-March.
The increase in case numbers since last week also reflected the testing site at Jefferson County Fair Park that the Wisconsin National Guard operated for four days last week.
The county now has logged 516 cases of the coronavirus with 11,483 people tested. Across Wisconsin, there have been more than 49,000 positive cases.
“The results from the testing site have been coming back in 48 hours or less,” said Gail Scott, director of the Jefferson County Health Department on Monday. “Right now, I show 1,314 were tested in the four days. I do know we’ve had some positives.”
Figuring out what the daily positive percentage has been a subject of concern lately when on Friday, Public Health Madison and Dane County admitted on its Facebook page that as many as 17,000 negative COVID-19 tests in Dane County were not entered into a data system because of a backlog. That, in turn, could distort the daily percentage of positive cases for the state.
The daily percentage is important because it is a guide many local governments use to base how many people can be at a restaurant or event. In Madison, they are at 25-percent capacity indoors and more outdoors.
On Monday, state Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, called on state and local health officials to publicly announce if their agencies have had a backlog of reporting negative cases since June 1. He also wants the state to correct that data.
“After the stunning revelation that Dane County had 17,000 unreported Covid-19 negative results that dramatically skewed the positivity rates in that county for at least three weeks, the public can no longer be assured that all state and local data is reliable without greater transparency and honesty from public health bureaucrats,” he said. “In every corner of Wisconsin, local governments, private businesses and individual citizens have been using the flawed COVID-19 data to make key decisions and now must re-evaluate those decisions once the accurate positivity rates are known.”
Nass said in a statement that the state Department of Health Services has refused to identify local public health agencies with a backlog of reporting numbers.
In Jefferson County, the county has been up to date reporting numbers, and there is no backlog, Scott said.
Fort HealthCare, which has completed about half of the 11,000 tests in the county, also said there is no backlog here.
Emails to DHS were not returned as of presstime.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the state positivity rate and many local county positivity rates are skewed significantly higher by the backlogs in reporting negative results. While the development of backlogs was not intentional, the decision by public health officials to stay quiet about the existence of the backlogs was clearly intentional and terribly inappropriate,” Nass said.
While the state is working on correcting those percentage numbers, the number of positive cases in Wisconsin continues to climb. On Sunday, there were 957 new cases reported in the state and 18,000 new cases of the virus in the last 30 days, according to the DHS. By Monday, an additional 590 more were reported statewide.
That is roughly a 40-percent drop statewide in new positive cases from July 14 through July 27.
Also on Monday, 30,000 Americans started getting the first shots of an experimental COVID vaccine developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., this phase of the study will take months and there is no guarantee the vaccine works.