COVID-19 cases are declining, but the numbers could be deceiving

False hope? Wisconsin health officials say COVID-19 cases are on the decline -- but that the numbers could be deceiving.

The state has the capacity to process 60,000 coronavirus tests a day. But only about half of that is being utilized.

Despite concerns that COVID-19 cases would skyrocket following the Thanksgiving holiday, Wisconsin is seeing the opposite -- nearly 1,000 fewer cases reported Thursday, Dec. 10 compared to two weeks ago.

Andrea Palm

"It is my hope that we’re seeing fewer positive cases because fewer people are getting testing with COVID-19," said Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. "But with our positivity rate as high as it is, we know we are not testing enough people to get an accurate picture of the virus here in Wisconsin."

Palm said the drop in cases is likely the result of a drop in testing -- rather than a drop in transmission.

"There is a false sense of safety within our bubble. Everyone thinks their bubble is safe. The folks they know, the folks they are closest to are being safe," Palm said. "As much as 50 percent of transmission is asymptomatic."

One indicator that transmission remains high is the state is projected to hit 4,000 virus-related deaths by this weekend. Gov. Tony Evers warned earlier in the fall that Wisconsin could see 5,000 deaths before the end of the year if current trends continued. 19 days ago, the state surpassed 3,000 deaths.

The governor on Thursday stress personal responsibility in stopping the spread -- as Christmas Eve is now two weeks away.

COVID-19 testing

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"That is a concern that the holidays will cause more cases, and frankly, a lagging indicator, the main one, being death. So we're hoping people will wear their mask, and do the right thing," the governor said.

DHS officials say the reason behind the testing fatigue is unknown. Other states are seeing consistent testing levels -- and some are even seeing increased testing.


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State health officials reported, 4,034 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin Thursday, Dec. 10 and 57 new deaths.


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