Wisconsin introduces ‘critically high’ category to track alarming rise in Covid-19 cases, here's what it means

Almost three times higher than the ‘very high’ level, it represents 1,000 or more cases per 100,000 residents

                            Wisconsin introduces ‘critically high’ category to track alarming rise in Covid-19 cases, here's what it means
(Getty Images)

Wisconsin has been hit so hard by a spike in coronavirus cases that health officials had to create an entirely new category to show people a better picture of the devastating impact. A “critically high” category was announced by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and added to the disease activity dashboard. This indicates how alarming coronavirus activity is in counties and regions throughout Wisconsin: the critically high level is nearly three times higher than “very high.” To be considered very high, a county’s outbreak would have to exceed 350 cases per 100,000 residents. The new critically high category represents greater than or equal to 1,000 cases per 100,000 people. 

Both the state and 65 counties out of 72 were at this “critically high” level when the announcement was made on November 11. “Far too many of our communities are in a dire situation. To put these new data in perspective, Wisconsin is now seeing more average cases per day than New York City did at the peak of its surge last spring. Because of these critically high levels of disease, public health can no longer adequately contact trace, hospital beds are filled with patients with Covid-19, and too many Wisconsin families are losing loved ones to this virus,” explains DHS deputy secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk.

Covid-19 case activity in the state (Wisconsin Department of Health Services)

By helping people see the critically high level of disease in their counties and regions, Dijk hopes “these data enhancements will help people make important decisions to stay home in order to stop the spread of coronavirus.” 

As of November 12, all but seven counties in Wisconsin were in the critically high category, suggests a report. According to state authorities, Wisconsin saw another record-setting day with a new daily high of 7,497 confirmed cases on November 12. So far, 293,388 have tested positive for coronavirus in the state and 2,515 have died in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Confirmed Covid-19 cases and deaths by gender (Wisconsin Department of Health Service)

According to the November 11 data, 88.9% of hospital beds were in use and 90.6% of ICU beds were occupied. Governor Tony Evers has also issued a new executive order that asks Wisconsinites to wear a mask and maintain six feet of distance from others when they have to leave their homes. 

Hospital ocupancy data in Wisconsin (Wisconsin Department of Health Services)

What’s happening elsewhere?

Coronavirus cases are also surging across the US. The Covid-19 tracker of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that as of November 12, 10,314,254 infections have been reported to the agency, including more than 143,408 new cases.

Coronavirus cases and deaths reported as of November 12 (CDC)

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday issued a stay-at-home advisory and a 10-person cap on social gatherings to combat a surge in Covid-19 cases. Beginning on Monday, the order advises Chicago residents to stay at home and only leave home to go to work or school, or for essential needs such as seeking medical care, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, picking up food, or receiving deliveries. “If you do leave home, you must always wear a face covering and practice social distancing by staying six feet away from others. Do not have gatherings in your home with anybody outside of your household (except for essential staff such as home health care workers or educators), even with trusted family or friends. Avoid all non-essential, out-of-state travel. Comply with city and state orders, including mandating early closure of non-essential businesses at 11 pm. Use remote modes of communication like phone or video chat instead of visiting friends or family, especially on holidays such as Thanksgiving,” says the executive order.

Some places such as Oregon, Rhode Island, and Denver had earlier announced new restrictions such as curfews or limited size of social gatherings to tackle the rise in cases. Indoor and outdoor gatherings in private homes in New York state will be limited to 10 people, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on November 11. From November 13 at 10 pm, bars, restaurants, and gyms or fitness centers, as well as any state liquor authority-licensed establishment, will remain closed from 10 pm to 5 am daily in New York.

For more information and statistics on the coronavirus pandemic, click on the Newsbreak tracker here