Sunday, August 23, 2020

Wisconsin COVID cases are dropping, only because testing is dropping.

At first glance, it may seem that Wisconsin continues to make progress in blunting the impact of COVID-19 as we get into the 2nd half of August.

But there's a big problem with assuming that we are doing better. Because the number of Wisconsinites getting COVID-19 tests has dropped sharply in the last 2 weeks, to the lowest levels in 3 months.

This means that the percentage of tests ending up positive was over 8% in Wisconsin for the first time since the start of May, when many fewer COVID tests were being administered.

And I have to wonder whether that reduction in testing is related to what we saw in this report from Wisconsin Public Radio from last week.
Secretary Andrea Palm of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) said Thursday her agency has heard reports from hospital partners that say they've seen their supplies of coronavirus testing reagent diverted to other states.

This comes after Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin sent a letter this week to Vice President Mike Pence, chair of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, seeking information on reports that the federal government sent COVID-19 testing supplies meant for Wisconsin to other virus hot spots.

In the letter, Baldwin specifically discussed Advocate Aurora Health. Last week, the nonprofit hospital system issued a statement saying it has been "forced to adjust" its coronavirus testing approach due to delayed shipments of testing supplies.

Advocate Aurora has suspended COVID-19 tests before some procedures in favor of enhanced personal protective equipment. It also temporarily closed most of its community testing sites in Wisconsin, including two in Sheboygan County.

This week, health officials there said they’ve encouraged symptomatic residents to travel to a community testing site in Calumet [County].

(PS- 25 million tests in 4 months in a country of 330 million ain't that much).

But even with the slowdown in testing reducing the number of positive tests in the state overall, some places are still continuing to see more cases of coronavirus. Mostly in the areas that tend to have politicians and locals who reject mask mandates.

I'd celebrate the fact that Dane County continues to stay at low levels. But now the college kids are coming back to UW, and I think I'll keep away from that area of town for a few weeks.

Buckle up, as the near future likely will tell us whether we make any progress against COVID-19 in the next 3 month, and whether people will feel more comfortable in going out and getting our economy back on track. Or not, and as of now, "not" sadly seems to be the more likely outcome. Especially if many parts of the state continue to be selfish and refuse to do the things that could help us crush the virus.

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