Rock Co. hospitals near maximum capacity as COVID-19 cases surge

Due to COVID-19 spike, Rock County Health Department announces scaling back of reopening plans.
Published: Nov. 16, 2020 at 5:47 PM CST
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ROCK COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - The Rock County Health Department announced Monday it is scaling back its reopening plan, moving back to Phase One. The shift comes after the county reported 30 percent of its total cases since the beginning of November.

Hospital capacity also influenced the decision. The county saw its highest increase in positive cases yet on Sunday, recording over 300 new cases. Since November 1, the number of people hospitalized has doubled, reaching 70 on Saturday, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

“Rock County hospitals are increasing their capacity, reaching maximum capacity in their ICUs, and that definitely would be true here as well,” said Eric Thornton, president at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Janesville.

This comes after the county saw its largest increase in new COVID-19 cases yesterday (306), bringing the total number of...

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Thornton said St. Mary’s has not had to implement its surge plan yet.

“We do still have beds available, but we want to be cautious about that as winter and fall are generally busy months for us,” Thornton explained.

Bed space is not the only concern. Thornton said other resources affect the hospital’s ability to care for both COVID and non-COVID patients.

“We do have some staff that are out on quarantine, either because they’ve been personally diagnosed or a family member has been exposed,” he said.

The Rock County Health Department said the strain on hospitals and health workers is just one factor in scaling back reopening plans.

“Hospital data is one of the things the Rock County Health Department looks at to make that decision,” Thornton acknowledged.

The message from health officials including Thornton still has not changed. They are asking everyone to wear masks and practice social distancing, but these measures are more urgent than ever.

“The best way that you can help us is to keep yourself healthy,” Thornton said.

Thornton also said St. Mary’s is monitoring Rock County cases closely, especially as Thanksgiving draws near. He said he wants to remind people there is no such thing as a risk-free gathering.

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