Planned Madison Overflow Facility To Treat COVID-19 Patients On Hold

State Health Officials Say There's No Immediate Need For Facility

Alliant Energy Center
Dori CC-BY (v. 2.5)

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 continues to rise in Wisconsin but there are signs the state may not need as much surge capacity as planned.

Tuesday state health officials announced a second field hospital for COVID-19 patients is on hold.

Plans for an alternative care facility located at Dane County’s Alliant Energy Center are not going forward at this time. State health officials said there’s no immediate need. However, that could change in the future as more businesses reopen. It also depends on how well people practice social distancing and other measures designed to curb transmission of the disease.

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“What we know is that this is a ferocious little virus and it is very infectious and so we anticipate that we will continue to see spread of this virus,” said state Department of Health Services (DHS) Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk during a briefing with officials from the State Emergency Operations Center.

The state has an alternative care facility set up at the Exposition Center at State Fair Park in West Allis. The Wisconsin National Guard is helping staff it.

There are also voluntary isolation centers in Dane and Milwaukee counties. They are for people with mild symptoms of COVID-19 to recuperate. DHS reports that use so far has been low, but they will remain open.

“I am cautious about us saying we don’t need them too soon because as we begin to open up Wisconsin and more people go out, we will increase the risk for disease transmission,” explained Van Dijk.

One isolation center is at the Lowell Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Since opening April 1, eight people have used it. The other state-run isolation facility is at a Super 8 motel in Milwaukee, where 37 people have stayed over the same time period.

State health officials continue to train more contract tracers who can follow up with infected persons to find out who they might have spread the virus to. The state has a goal of having 1,000 people who can do contact tracing across Wisconsin.

This includes any transmission of the new coronavirus during the April 7 election. On Tuesday, officials said 52 people who voted in person or worked the polls during Wisconsin’s spring election have tested positive for COVID-19.

National Guard members were among those who helped at the polls. Wisconsin’s adjutant general said determining where people were infected is difficult, and they can’t be certain it occurred during the election.

“It’s really difficult to tie positive cases of COVID to include people who are symptomatic with the election since there are so many activities that these folks are involved in every day; going to the grocery store, hardware store and all these other places,” said Wisconsin National Guard Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp.

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