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Case counts dropping in Wisconsin even after holiday

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Case counts

MADISON (WKOW) -- The coronavirus pandemic is still making an impact in Wisconsin.

15 more people have died with COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. Saturday, we passed 4,000 deaths in the state.

More than 45,000 people have the virus and more than 1,400 are in the hospital as of Sunday.

But after shattering records in fall, hospitalizations have been declining for about a month in Wisconsin.

While the positivity rate is more than double what it was over the summer, cases numbers have been dropping.

Before Thanksgiving, public health officials were painting a bleak picture of the future.

"We were pleading with the public before that Thanksgiving holiday, really getting that message out there that we as health systems are not okay and things are not going to be okay if we don't change the trajectory of this," Dr Jeff Pothof with UW Health said.

Now, he says, looking at the data, it seems like people listened.

"In a way we were a little bit surprised," Dr. Pothof said. "We didn't think that we would see that decrease in Wisconsin."

He says there has been much discussion as to why the drop has come, despite the holiday.

"I've talked to a lot of folks who've tried to find a way to try to explain this," he said. "At some point you just have to say, 'You know what? It's not spreading as much and the only way the virus doesn't spread as much is if people aren't close together giving it to each other'."

But he says it's not all good news.

"Make no mistake, the level of cases is still very high," Dr. Pothof said.

This as testing is also down, is making public health officials concerned they're not getting an accurate picture.

Dr. Pothof says the prevalence of rapid antigen testing may be decreasing the high amount of testing we were seeing before.

"With the availability of antigen testing, the binax testing, those card-based tests, we're not sure that all of those are hitting the DHS data," he said.

Now with vaccine distribution starting next week, he says people need to keep up the good work going the the holidays and the new year.

"If we change our behavior, we can flatten the curve and now we're so close to a vaccine, that if we can hold the line just a little bit longer, that's the end, like pandemic is over and we go into 2021 and God knows, it's gotta be a better year than 2020," he said.

In Dane County, fewer people are in the hospital.

Dr. Pothof says hospitalizations typically trail a positive test by two weeks.

He expects if there are cases not caught by tests, we may see a rise in hospitalizations starting next week.

Francisco Almenara

Reporter, WKOW

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