A geographic shift: Majority of Dane County COVID-19 cases now outside Madison

MADISON, Wis. – Public health officials are seeing the nationwide shift in COVID-19 cases from urban to rural areas gradually reflected in Dane County.

According to Public Health Madison & Dane County, 28% of those who tested positive in the county in September lived outside Madison. In October so far, that percentage is 58%.

“When you have generally higher rates in the community, you’re likely to see greater transmission levels everywhere — in every town, in every sector,” said Katarina Grande, PHMDC COVID response data team lead.

According to Grande, the spread is fairly evenly spread across the map outside Madison, “not confined to just suburbs, but also reaching pretty rural areas of Dane County, as well.”

We’re seeing a geographic shift in who has COVID-19 in Dane County. In September, 28% of cases resided outside of…

Posted by Public Health Madison & Dane County on Monday, October 26, 2020

Prior to September, the split between Dane county cases within and outside Madison was pretty even, but then COVID-19 cases on and around the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus spiked. While they’re seeing fewer cases among the student population recently, about a quarter of people who have tested positive cumulatively in Dane County were affiliated with university, Grande said.

“After that, the pattern is moving gradually outside,” UW-Madison Geography Ph.D. student Atlas Guo said, adding that he’s seen cases in suburbs and surrounding cities like Waunakee on the rise in recent weeks. “That is the general pattern, no matter in the local region, or statewide or nationwide.”

Guo created a desktop data dashboard to track county cases using state data. The mobile version can be found here.

“Compared to the outbreak in early-to-mid September around UW Campus and State Street, recent increases at (a) similar level so far happened with a much more spread-out spatial distribution,” he said.

Guo has also made a map of the whole state, noting that Madison and Dane County are better off than northeast Wisconsin.

Still, he said the outward spread in Dane County is a reminder to keep up with precautions.

“It also reminds us even in the areas with relatively lower population, there’s still a high possibility of getting infected,” Guo said.

“Wear your mask, even in small towns,” Grande said. “Avoid big groups. Avoid events like weddings or parties, as hard as that is. Staying six feet away from others.”