Majority of Wisconsin coronavirus cases are people under 40; Evers tells people to stay home for Fourth of July

MADISON – The coronavirus is accelerating again in Wisconsin with 20% of the state’s total cases having been reported in the last two weeks, state public health officials announced Thursday.

The majority of people who have contracted the virus are now under the age of 40, according to the the most recent Department of Health Services data.

Gov. Tony Evers in a statement urged Wisconsin residents, especially younger people who are driving the increase, to stay home for the Fourth of July weekend. 

“We know this is a time people like to celebrate with friends, but COVID-19 is still spreading in our state, and we need everyone to take the necessary precautions,” Evers said.

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The state recorded 539 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. Those new cases are 4.2% of total tests processed since Wednesday, a rate that has held relatively steady in the last few days after a high of 7% positive tests on Sunday, which was the highest since late May. 

The state reported seven more deaths Thursday, bringing the total to 793. 

And half of the 29,739 total positive cases in the state have been identified over the past five weeks — a surge that comes after weeks of decline.

But hospitalizations are still at some of the lowest levels since the virus hit the state in earnest, with fewer than 300 COVID-19 patients per day in hospitals across the state since mid-June. On Thursday, 236 people were hospitalized, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association

Thursday’s release was the first time Evers and state public health officials have addressed the public since June 23, a nine-day period during which the number of cases has grown rapidly, including a spike linked to businesses in the capital city.

Dane County closed indoor bar service this week in an attempt to slow the spread.

The silence from the governor and Department of Health Services was a noticeable change; they had held regular, televised briefings with reporters since the virus began to spread in March. News conferences were held more frequently during periods of rapid growth of the virus.

In the nine days since the June 23 news conference, new cases have averaged 490, more than a 50% increase.

When Evers and DHS officials held their last briefing, the seven-day rolling average of new cases was 305, and only 2.2% of that day’s newly reported tests were positive.

Evers used his introductory statement that day to highlight the longest continuous activation of the State Emergency Operations Center.

Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm thanked the state’s data team, and announced the creation of a new dashboard that assigned an “activity level” for the state and its counties.

Wisconsin’s activity level was “medium,” based on its recent case totals and trajectory.

When it went to a “high” activity level after the dashboard updated the next day, DHS didn’t issue any news release to publicize or explain the change.

Wisconsin as a whole was again deemed to be at a “high” activity level this week, along with about half of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. 

Republican leaders also haven’t commented on the increase in cases, and haven’t held a news conference since April. 

You can find out who your legislators are and how to contact them here.

Contact Molly Beck and Matthew Piper at molly.beck@jrn.com and mpiper@gannett.com.