With the percentage of Dane County COVID-19 cases growing in recent weeks, public health officials are seeing a shift in cases from urban to rural areas.

Only 28% of cases were outside of Madison in September, but the number has increased to 58% in October, according to the weekly COVID-19 data reports from Public Health Madison and Dane County.

According to these reports, the percent of cases in Madison versus outside of Madison have been about equal for the majority of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The number of patients hospitalized in Dane County also continues to increase, peaking at 92 hospitalizations Oct. 21. An increase in hospitalizations can strain the healthcare system and public health officials in Dane County continue to monitor hospitalizations closely.

PHMDC COVID-19 response data team lead Katarina Grande said to Channel 3000 that the spread is fairly even across areas outside Madison and is not just confined to suburbs, reaching rural areas of Dane County.

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

Before September, COVID-19 cases around the University of Wisconsin campus also spiked. According to Grande, there are fewer cases now among the student population, but about a quarter of individuals who tested positive in Dane County cumulatively were affiliated with the university.

UW Geography Ph.D. student Atlas Guo said to Channel 3000 that he has seen cases on the rise in recent weeks in suburbs and some surrounding cities like Waunakee.

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“After that, the pattern is moving gradually outside,” Guo said. “That is the general pattern, no matter in the local region or statewide or nationwide.”

Guo created a data dashboard that tracks county cases using state data. He has also made a state map, noting that Madison and Dane County are doing better than northeast Wisconsin.

Guo said to Channel 3000 that there is still a high possibility of getting infected, even in areas with a relatively low population.

“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.”