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28 more COVID-19 deaths in Wisconsin; 2nd highest so far

As coronavirus cases increase in the state, the Alternate Care Facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park opened Wednesday to serve COVID-19 patients
Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 2:29 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A day after the Dept. of Health Services recorded a record high number of deaths related to COVID-19, the agency reported the second-most in state history. Wednesday also marked the opening of the Alternate Care Facility (ACF) at Wisconsin State Fair Park, designed to care for COVID-19 patients from across the state.

Twenty-eight more deaths were recorded Wednesday, six fewer than the previous day, according to DHS' daily update. That still tops any other day - except Tuesday - since the pandemic began and pushes the total number of deaths state wide to 1,536 since the pandemic began.

Additionally, Iowa Co. health officials said the first resident from that county has died.

The state reported more than 3,000 new, confirmed cases of coronavirus, more than 21 percent of the total tests tallied on Wednesday. That drove the seven-day percent-positive above 20 percent for the first time in state history.

With DHS reporting 3,107 new cases, the overall total has risen to 158,578 cases in Wisconsin. Of those, 31,595 remain active.

The state also set a new high for the number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 in a day. It reported 153 more people were admitted to the state’s hospital, which are already stretched thin. On Wednesday, the emergency hospital at the state fairgrounds opened to provide more beds for the influx of patients.

Julie Willems Van Dijk, Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said state hospitals are feeling the strain.

“Wisconsin as a whole is also at a very high disease activity level,” Willems Van Dijk said. “The number of people hospitalized with COVID is at an all time high and not only that, that number is also growing. Many of our ICUs are strained in every region of our state as more and more hospitals reporting current and imminent staff shortages.”

Willems Van Dijk said there are currently no patients at the ACF at the Wisconsin State Fair Park, but said the site is ready to accept patients as the need arises.

“At the request of our hospital partners, we are opening the Alternate Care Facility,” she said. “As of today, it is open to accept patients who will be transferred from hospitals across the state.”

In a press conference on Tuesday, Governor Tony Evers said the ACF is “not a hospital and will not accept walk in patients. Patients will only be admitted in coordination with healthcare providers.”

Deb Standridge, CEO of the Wisconsin State Fair Park Alternate Care Facility, said on their first day, the site opened with 50 staff members and 50 beds. On its first day open, Willems Van Dijk and Standridge said there were no patients at the site. However, Willems Van Dijk said the team at the ACF had been fielding calls from area hospitals and health systems inquiring about sending eligible patients.

“So our clinical team are reviewing all those, as well as going through process and protocol with the hospitals and health systems throughout the entire state to see if it is possible for them to transfer patients down here to the alternate care center for admission tomorrow,” Standridge said.

Standridge said she could not give an estimate of the amount of patients they could expect Thursday.

“Hospitals are going through that process right now in terms of predicting how many beds they will have to care for people in their community, that also includes the COVID-19 population," she said. "That is why these conversations are very lengthy as hospitals discern what their bed capacity forecast can be, and what their staffing resources are. I cannot give you a number, because we’re still having those conversations, and hospitals are still making those decisions.”

Eligible patients were described as being low acuity and in the last few days of normal hospitalization. No critically ill patients will be cared for at the ACF.

“We anticipate the average length of stay for the patient to be anywhere from three to six days, that is what we anticipate," said Standridge. “They may come here, they’re between the ages of 18 and 70 years old, they may need some additional oxygen therapy, additional medications, additional care, rest, etc., those kind of things. Low level of acuity as we say.”

Since the pandemic began, 8,754 people have been hospitalized.

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