Wisconsin's coronavirus infection numbers have changed alarmingly over the past week, showing a severe increase, particularly in the last two days. Though it is hard to draw a lot of conclusions from a day or two of numbers, we're currently seeing a trend that is disturbing. For the past two days, although the number of tests being done is down (not surprising for the Independence Day holiday) the number of positive cases has moved upward to numbers not seen since the beginning of the outbreak.

It's difficult to project based on numbers around a national holiday, but if this increase continues throughout this week it is cause for alarm. Optimists are pointing out that the number of hospitalizations and deaths is stable but it is likely this is just because those numbers are always trailing the infection rate. One piece of good news, if it can be called that, is that the large upsurge in cases seems to be suddenly driven by younger people becoming infected, who often get through the infection better than older patients. This doesn't necessarily bode well for the resumption of classes in the fall if our younger citizens do not start to take virus hygiene suggestions more seriously. The surge in Dane County in particular is due to infections of younger people. 

The Chippewa Valley is doing better than some of the counties in the state, but the increases being shown in Eau Claire county are noticeable. As you can see from the map below, Eau Claire and Chippewa Counties now have relatively high infection rates per capita (Eau Claire at 275.8 cases per 100,000 people, and Chippewa at 160.3). Dunn County is still at a lower infection rate of 96.6 cases per 100,000 residents. Although we are not close to the numbers in some of the hotspots (Dane, Racine, Milwaukee, and Brown Counties in particular) it is clear we are nowhere near out of the woods for infections and that the pandemic is not getting better. Hopes that somehow the virus would "go away" as weather got warmer were clearly wishful thinking. 

Centers of the new infections seem to be bars and family gatherings. It is hard to believe that this will become any better after the Independence Day weekend, and many will be looking nervously at the numbers over the next two weeks. It is difficult to predict what, if anything, the response to this will be as most jurisdictions are finding it difficult to legally address isolation and facemask issues since litigation from the Republican Party and third-party groups keep striking down state and local ordinances. Expect to see some new attempts at regulation and more litigation against those rules in the upcoming weeks.

The big question for many, though, is how it will be possible to have effective schools at any level in the fall if these trends continue.

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Steve Hanson

Steve is a web designer and recently retired from running the hosting and development company Cruiskeen Consulting LLC. Cruiskeen Consulting LLC is the parent company of Wis.Community, and publication of this site continues after his retirement.

Steve is a member of LION Publishers and the Local Media Consortium, is active in Health Dunn Right, and is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of the greater Chippewa Valley

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Author Credit

Map Courtesy Wisconsin Department of Health Services

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