On a day when the CDC estimated that 20 million Americans already have been infected with the coronavirus, Jefferson County topped 200 positive cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Wisconsin has seen an uptick in case numbers during the last few days, with 464 new cases reported Thursday with 4.1 percent of people testing positive. More than a half-million people have been tested for the virus in the state, with 5 percent testing positive.

In Jefferson County, there have been 5,983 negative tests for COVID-19, with 201 people testing positive. Four people have died.

“We are up to 184 cases within Jefferson County with about 17 cases on the Jefferson County side of Watertown,” said Jefferson County Health Department director Gail Scott. “We are working closely with our community partners to continue to let people know we have community spread and they should still take precautions to protect themselves and others including washing hands, staying home when sick, practicing physical distancing and wearing face coverings.

“We know from our data that community spread is still happening, as well as spread at various businesses,” she added. “People are still seeking health care and are being diagnosed with COVID-19. The virus is still infecting people in our community.”

Scott said some people have questioned where the health departments get their numbers on cases.

“They are reported to us from the labs analyzing the tests or the from the medical provider conducting the testing,” Scott explained. “They are uploaded to a secure system called the Wisconsin Electronic Disease Surveillance System or WEDSS. This is a confidential system; no information is shared outside of aggregate data.”

She said that once the case is reported, the county’s public health COVID team follows up by calling the person who is diagnosed to start contact tracing.

“This is vitally important so that we can notify others who may have been exposed,” Scott continued. “Following CDC and DHS protocols, the team members assist them in keeping others safe and watching for symptoms in case their disease becomes more severe. The initial case name is not shared any further so confidentiality is maintained. The COVID team works together with the person and helps answer questions they may have. Once the person has recovered, their case is closed and no further tracking or follow-up is done.”

Scott said residents always are welcome to contact the Jefferson County Health Department with questions at our COVID-19 email at covid19@jeffersoncountywi.gov.

Meanwhile, Dane County also recorded its largest increase in new cases over a five-day period, with 279 new cases. This might put a hold on that county moving to the next stage for businesses allowing more customers inside at one time.

As cases began to spike in many states across the nation, some cities are requiring the wearing of masks out in public.

Thursday’s estimate of 20 million is roughly 10 times as many infections as the 2.3 million cases that have been confirmed. Twenty million infections means that about 6 percent of the nation’s 331 million people have been infected.

“It’s clear that many individuals in this nation are still susceptible,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Our best estimate right now is that for every case that was reported, there actually are 10 more infections.”

Previously, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that as many as 25 percent of infected people might not have symptoms.

“There’s an enormous number of people that are still vulnerable,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It still remains a potentially lethal disease. It’s a roll of the dice for everybody who gets the illness. Also, you’re rolling the dice for other people who you may give the virus to.”

The new estimate is based on CDC studies of blood samples collected nationwide — some by the CDC and others from blood donations and other sources. Many infections were not caught in early testing, when supplies were limited and federal officials prioritized testing for those with symptoms.

Administration officials are pointing to the new data to allay public anxieties, claiming that while there have been significant spikes, they have the outbreaks well in hand.

“This is still serious,” Redfield said on the call with reporters Thursday. “But I’m asking people to recognize that we’re in a different situation today than we were in March or April,” with more cases today in younger people who are not as likely to develop serious illness or die from infection, he said.

The CDC teams, officials said, are working to trace new outbreaks and reinforce protective measures like social distancing and mask wearing in hard-hit areas and to remind vulnerable populations to take extreme precautions.

One of the hard-hit areas is Phoenix, where President Trump held an event Tuesday with thousands of young attendees, nearly all of whom were maskless.

The officials say the nature of the outbreak now is different than months ago, when deaths topped more than 1,000 per day for weeks and hospitals were stretched beyond capacity across the country. The new increase in positive cases, they said, is capturing what has long been there. They say it is only now showing up in data because the U.S. has increased testing and surveillance.

Meanwhile, mortality data has declined steadily, as have hospitalizations in all but a few hotspots.

With testing far more widespread now, officials believe that 50 percent of new cases in Florida and Texas are among people ages 35 or younger, and most of them are asymptomatic.

The U.S. is testing about 500,000 patients per day.

There is no scientific consensus on the rate of testing needed to control the virus. But many experts say the U.S. should be testing roughly 1 million to 3 million people daily to catch new cases and prevent flareups. Administration officials said they expect to be able to run 20 million to 40 million tests per month beginning this fall.

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