9 of 10 Rock Co. COVID-19 tests were positive Thursday, but that wasn’t the problem

Rock Co. Public Health
Rock Co. Public Health(MGN)
Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 7:36 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Over 90 percent of all COVID-19 tests reported in Rock Co. on Thursday were positive, the latest Dept. of Health Services numbers show. But, while that number demonstrates the seriousness of the crisis, it is also skewed by challenges health officials are facing.

The percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive often offers its own insight into the spread of coronavirus. Testing more people likely means finding more sick people. In general, tracking the percentage of positive tests helps account for any increase or decrease in testing.

Statewide, that figure ranged between 19 and 26 percent. Extraordinarily high numbers in their own respects, there ones not reached until the massive surge in cases over the past few weeks. However, in Rock Co., the numbers reported in the DHS report reach the point of surreal.

When dealing with the smaller numbers on the county scale, wide variations in percentages can be expected. However, they have been consistently high for a week.

DayPositiveTotalPercent of positive tests
Thursday, Oct. 159610691%
Wednesday, Oct. 146113844%
Tuesday, Oct. 13548365%
Monday, Oct. 1214317283%
Sunday, Oct. 116229920%
Saturday, Oct. 1010245922%
Friday, Oct. 910431833%
Seven-day rolling average622157539.4%


Half the problem, Rock Co. Public Health spokesperson Jessica Turner explained, is the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases gripping the county. That leads to the second half of the equation, namely, Rock Co. health officials are so busy dealing with the influx of positive cases, they simply do not have time to report all of the negative ones they have received.

“Our main priority is to contact the people who have tested positive and reach out to their close contacts as quickly as possible to reduce the amount of spread,” she said in a Wednesday statement to NBC15 News.

She noted, too, that the health department keeps hiring new staff members to help keep up with onslaught of new cases. Also, people who test positive are being asked to reach out to their close contacts.

On Wednesday, the health department reported a backlog of nearly 1,000 cases. According to Turner, the Wisconsin Electronic Disease Surveillance System is due for an update this weekend that will make entering tests more efficient.

Eventually, all of those tests will get entered into the system. On those days, they will inflate the number of negative tests reported and, on those days, depress that day’s percent-positive. Turner added the health department expects to see the numbers even out in the near future.

Copyright 2020 WMTV. All rights reserved.