Dane County COVID cases hit all-time high as nationwide cases set record

MADISON, Wis. — New COVID-19 cases in Dane County have reached a level never seen before, according to the latest data from Public Health Madison & Dane County.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Dane County’s 7-day average for new cases sat at 497, which is the highest it’s been throughout the entire pandemic. The previous high, a 7-day average of 490 cases, was set Nov. 17, 2020.

On Tuesday, a record 721 people tested positive for COVID-19, according to data from PHMDC’s dashboard.

New Covid 19 Cases 12 28

Courtesy of PHMDC

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As the Omicron variant continues to spread amid the holiday season, area residents have found testing options in short supply. Demand for Fitchburg Family Pharmacy’s drive-through COVID tests has grown so extensive that the city had to set up a designated route for drivers vying for a spot in line.

PHMDC Communications Coordinator Morgan Finke said testing capacity at PHMDC’s South Park Street clinic was increased 15% ahead of the holidays, which upped the clinic’s daily capacity from 430 tests a day to 600.

“We are currently booked this week, but there are plenty of openings next week,” Finke said.

The most recent surge in cases, which began in late November, has not directly led to a dramatic increase in hospitalizations as was seen in fall 2020, but COVID-19 hospitalizations tend to lag a couple of weeks behind case spikes.

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Some local health care experts have warned that the increase in cases — and potential for a surge in hospitalizations — could push area hospitals over the edge. Despite ongoing efforts to determine exactly how severe Omicron is, even the smallest of patient surges could limit health care providers’ ability to care for everyone who needs it.

“This time around it’s like the deck is stacked a little bit higher against us,” said UW Health’s Dr. Jeff Pothof.

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Vaccines, though, have been proven to help with reducing the likelihood of severe disease or death, and booster shots add an extra layer of protection.

To date, just over 77% of Dane County residents have completed their initial vaccine series, but only 55% of eligible residents have gotten their booster shot. Those numbers are among the highest in the state, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect PHMDC’s latest data for COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday. Previous data from PHMDC put the number at 751 rather than 721.