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Wisconsin prepares for COVID-19 hospitalization surge

As cases and hospitalizations spike, health officials weigh in on whether the state is ready.
Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 8:10 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and NBC15 spoke to UW Health and the Wisconsin Medical Society to find out if the state is prepared to handle the spike.

Jerry Halverson, Board Chair of the Wisconsin Medical Society said hospitals across the state are feeling the strain.

“We are literally having hospitals that their beds are full,” Halverson said, adding, “COVID patients are starting to crowd out other types of emergencies.”

In Dane County, UW Health has seen an increase, but it is not critical yet. The hospital system still has to prioritize emergency care for non-COVID patients.

“It’s really important that we retain the capacity for that type of patient care,” Aimee Becker, UW Health Chief Medical Officer said. COVID-19 cases overwhelming hospitals' ability to provide other care is a concern.

UW Health is also monitoring staffing levels to make sure they can keep up with the surge.

“We haven’t had those specific COVID-19 related staffing challenges,” Becker explained.

However, the growing community spread of the virus poses a risk to healthcare workers.

“Our staff comes from the community so we’re having more people out,” Halverson explained.

Halverson added that a major concern is COVID patients getting seriously sick, following a pattern he said he has seen in other states.

“The cases spike, then over time you see the hospitalizations spike and then over time you see the deaths spike,” he said.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the new state order limiting mass gatherings could help control the spread.

“We need at least that standard to build upon so we’re not in this all by ourselves,” Parisi said.

He explained Dane County’s restrictions are stricter than the state order, but consistency across the state is important.

“We have literally tens of thousands of people who go in and out of Dane County every day,” Parisi explained.

For now, health and county officials said the best thing to do is continue following all public health guidelines.

“It’s been stressful on everybody, but it’s going to be a lot more stressful if these numbers continue to climb,” Parisi said.

In Dane County, the Alliant Energy Center has been designated as an alternate care site if needed.

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