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UW-Eau Claire hosted free antigen testing on campus for students and faculty Tuesday. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

EAU CLAIRE — After a record-breaking last week, fewer COVID-19 cases were reported this week in Eau Claire County.

In the county, 877 people have been diagnosed with the respiratory virus in the last seven days, compared to around 1,300 cases in the seven days before.

New hospitalizations have also dipped: 23 this week compared to 33 the week before.

But the number of COVID-19 tests also went down this week, raising questions about if less testing is partially a reason for fewer new cases.

There were about 2,600 tests done in Eau Claire County in the last seven days, compared to about 3,800 the week before, according to county data.

The county’s test-positivity rate over the last seven days — which experts have called a more accurate way to measure how prevalent the virus is locally — was not available Wednesday, as the Health Department planned to release its most recent tracking statistics Thursday.

Last week, the county’s test-positivity rate was at 19%.

“We did hear (our health care partners) are getting slightly lower testing levels in the last few days,” said Lieske Giese, director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department. “The general sense is that people may have gotten tested last week in advance of deer hunting and the Thanksgiving holiday.”

The Health Department is also looking into potential concerns involving the state’s data system after new diagnoses have slowed in the county, but “right now, we don’t have specific concerns,” Giese said Wednesday at a news briefing. “We know right now that for some, this is a week where people normally take a break.”

Experts have repeatedly emphasized that a negative COVID-19 test result isn’t a green light to attend a big Thanksgiving gathering. Studies suggest that the virus’ incubation time means that people can be infectious before symptoms show themselves, or possibly even before a test will detect the virus in the body.

“If you’re not able to completely quarantine for 14 days prior to the Thanksgiving holiday this weekend, you need to make sure you keep distance and keep a mask on to protect those around you,” Giese said.

Statewide, cases have also begun to level off in the last week. Wisconsin’s highest seven-day average was 6,563 cases on Nov. 18; on Tuesday, the seven-day average was 5,732.

But most Wisconsin counties, including all in western Wisconsin, are still rated “critically high” for virus activity, according to the state Department of Health Services.

This week in virus data

Nearly 7,500 people have tested positive for the virus in Eau Claire County since March, and 56 of those people have died.

That number includes the eight county residents who have died of COVID-19 since last Thursday, according to county data.

About 3% of county residents who have tested positive, or 237 people, have ever been hospitalized — meaning another 34 county residents have been hospitalized since last Thursday, according to county data.

Almost 5,500 people have recovered, leaving about 1,900 active cases in Eau Claire County as of Wednesday.

Contact: 715-833-9206, sarah.seifert@ecpc.com, @sarahaseifert on Twitter

Sarah Seifert is the L-T's education and health reporter. She has worked as a journalist in the Chippewa Valley since 2017 and joined the L-T in 2019. Get in touch at sarah.seifert@ecpc.com or on Twitter @sarahaseifert.