JEFFERSON — Fireworks weren’t the only thing exploding last weekend.
Jefferson County saw its largest one-day increase in COVID-19 cases during the Independence Day holiday, with the percentage of positive tests hitting 17 percent.
Gail Scott, director of the Jefferson County Health Department, confirmed that 18 new cases of the coronavirus and 23 overall for the weekend was the highest total since the pandemic began in March.
But the startling number is the percentage of positive cases.
“Our average new case percentage is at an all-time high of 9.2 percent,” she said. “Ideally, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) wants this number to stay at least below 5 percent. What this number tells us is that we’re seeing an increase in public transmission of the virus, rather than just more testing being done.”
There now are 291 positive cases of the coronavirus in the county, according to the state Department of Health Services. That’s almost a 30-percent increase from numbers reported two weeks ago.
Ten percent of COVID-19 cases have resulted in hospitalization, according to the Jefferson County Health Department.
There have been 7,238 negative tests for the virus in Jefferson County.
Health officials across Wisconsin and the nation are seeing spikes in positive cases as more cities are enacting restrictions to help control the outbreak of the virus.
In neighboring Dane County, an indoor facemask mandate was ordered to start at 8 a.m. Monday for all businesses. The order, from Public Health Madison and Dane County, requires everyone age 5 and older to wear a face covering in any building where other people would be present. The exception is a person’s household or living unit.
The order applies to businesses, health-care settings, public transportation and going to someone else’s home.
Eating in a restaurant would be exempt from the order, but social distancing still would apply.
“Public health research now shows that face coverings are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison and Dane County, said in a statement. “Given the current number of COVID-19 infections in our county, we need to all be wearing face coverings every time we leave the house.”
From June 30 through the July 4th weekend, Dane County had more than 1,200 cases of COVID-19. Among those cases, 57 percent were from people ages 18 to 25. And 24 percent of all cases in the state that come back are from those ages 20 to 29. By far the largest percentage for an age group.
Across the state, there has been a spike in percentage of cases returning positive. With Monday sitting at 9.2 percent in Jefferson County, the statewide percentage hit a two-week high on Saturday with 10.8 percent of tests coming back positive.
A growing number of states are requiring masks to be worn in public. But there is no statewide mask or occupancy order in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in May struck down Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide order as unconstitutional, leaving it up to local communities to enact their own limitations.
Evers announced Tuesday that the state will be distributing more than 2 million cloth masks and more than 4,200 infrared thermometers to K-12 schools, and about 60,000 masks to local food processors and businesses.
Also Tuesday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said it will not release the names of businesses and other places where there have been at least two confirmed cases of the coronavirus after businesses groups and Republican lawmakers opposed the idea.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.