'Promising news:' Milwaukee County sees progress in COVID-19 fight, not enough to advance gating criteria

The statewide numbers show work to be done, but there are indications of some progress in Milwaukee County's fight against COVID-19.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services on Thursday, Aug. 13 reported more than 900 new cases of COVID-19 and nearly 9,000 active cases in the state's 72 counties.

"When we talk about 'boxing in the virus,' we're talking about identifying where the virus is, and making sure it stays there," said Andrea Palm, Wisconsin DHS secretary-designee.

The first step to ensuring that happens is continuing to push the public to be tested. COVID-19 activity remains high across the state, in all but six counties.

Some good news, DHS numbers show 11 counties with a downward trend in virus activity, including Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee counties.

That said, in Milwaukee County, health officials said suburban communities and northwestern Milwaukee have seen some of the largest instances of the disease since July. In particular, younger populations are being affected by the virus.

"Just this week, the rate of disease amongst those 18-39 (years old) and those individuals between 40-59 (years old) has surpassed the rate of our oldest population who are 80-plus (years old)," said Darren Rausch, Greenfield public health officer. "A lot of the disease, recently over the last month has been happening and occurring in younger populations throughout Milwaukee County."

However, it appears those numbers are on a downward trajectory. This week's positivity rate of tests returned is down slightly, from 7.7% to 7.2% and the reproduction rate is also holding steady at just under 1% for the last several weeks. Still, it is not enough for the City of Milwaukee's gating criteria to go completely green.

"While (there's) slight downtrend in percent positive, it doesn't meet that statistical significance to change our indicator," Dr. Ben Weston with the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management said. "Nonetheless, it's promising news for our community."

Less promising is a downward trend in testing across Milwaukee County and its communities. Health officials urge that the only way a normal sense of life can return is for testing to go up, along with the use of masks.

State officials said Thursday that it is still too early to tell how the statewide mask mandate is affecting transmission rates.