Mayo Clinic: COVID-19 Positive Test Rate Is Dropping At Midwest Hospitals, Except In Southwest Wisconsin

Administrators Planning For Another Potential Surge Of Positives And Hospitalizations After Thanksgiving

Kelly Groth a nurse at Mayo Clinic in La Crosse puts on protective gear
Kelly Groth, a nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, puts on protective gear before heading out to the clinic’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing station on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Hope Kirwan/WPR

The Mayo Clinic Health System says the percentages of positive COVID-19 tests at all its Midwest hospitals are going down, except in southwestern Wisconsin.

The number of patients hospitalized with the disease within the Mayo Clinic system has also gone down, but hospitals are preparing for another potential surge two weeks after Thanksgiving.

Dr. Amy Williams, executive dean of Mayo Clinic Practice, told reporters Tuesday there have been some positive signs at the system’s Midwest hospitals. She said Mayo’s main campus in Rochester, Minnesota has seen the percentage of positive tests dip below 10 percent for the first time in weeks.

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At all of the other sites, we are finally below 20 percent positivity rate,” Williams said. “And remember, some of the Wisconsin sites were above 30 percent.”

The only outliers, said Williams, were Mayo hospitals in places like La Crosse, Onalaska, Holmen, Sparty and Tomah. She said the percentage of positive tests in southwest Wisconsin went up from around 19 percent to 26 percent.

“We’re not exactly sure why that could be but a number of people are coming there to test in order to travel home to see relatives,” said Williams. “Unfortunately, those people are getting positive tests.”

A Mayo Clinic spokesman based in Eau Claire told WPR positive test percentages at the system’s northwest Wisconsin locations went from 26.3 percent on Nov. 18 to 17.6 percent on Monday.

Even with positive rates down across the Midwest, Williams said the data shows community spread is still happening and people need to continue wearing face masks, social distancing and maintaining “robust hand hygiene.”

Williams also said 2.8 percent of Mayo’s Midwest staff were out of work because of COVID-19 exposure during the peak of the recent surge of new cases. She said that number has improved slightly to 2.6 percent. Williams said data shows 93 percent of staff exposures to COVID-19 came from outside of hospitals.

Hospitalization data for Mayo locations in northwest Wisconsin released Tuesday shows a total of 84 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications, and 11 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units. Mayo locations in southwest Wisconsin are reporting 33 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, with three people in intensive care units due to the disease.

“So, bottom line, all the hospitals are very, very busy,” said Williams. “This situation continues to be concerning with the surge. We are all planning and are ready for a surge that we anticipate two weeks after Thanksgiving, after all the gatherings and all of the traveling.”