State Sets Record For Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients

Hospitals Say Capacity Not Reached As They Urge People To Avoid Infection

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A nurse pulls a ventilator into an exam room where a patient with COVID-19 went into cardiac arrest
A nurse pulls a ventilator into an exam room where a patient with COVID-19 went into cardiac arrest April 20, at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Yonkers, N.Y. John Minchillo/AP

Wisconsin had 509 total COVID-19 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number since the coronavirus pandemic began. Hospital officials attribute the high numbers to the new coronavirus’s spread to rural areas of the state.

Residents there are predominantly older and more likely to become severely ill if they get infected, officials said.

“Although it’s a lagging indicator, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 is probably one of the best indicators of the state of pandemic,” said Mark Kaufman, chief medical officer for the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

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Data from the Wisconsin Hospital Association COVID-19 dashboard shows the state had a record number of daily coronavirus hospitalizations, 509, on Sept. 23, 2020, eclipsing the record of 446 patients on April 9, 2020. Graph courtesy of the WHA.

Wisconsin has also seen record numbers of new COVID-19 cases over the past week, and is now back on the quarantine travel list issued by Chicago every Tuesday. The list requires that those going back and forth between Wisconsin and Chicago to quarantine for 14 days unless they are an essential worker.

“We can get back to the levels we were at before, but it’s going to require increased personal discipline, especially by young people. Most of these new cases are in the 18 to 24-year-old demographic. The other age groups are relatively flat or slowly increasing,” said Dr. John Raymond, CEO and president of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Raymond predicts in the next couple of weeks, COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations will rise across age groups as young people interact with family members, coworkers and others in their communities.

The southeastern part of the state has the highest number of coronavirus hospitalizations, but other areas of the state have been seeing steep increases in recent weeks.

Data posted by state health officials show between Sept. 1 and Tuesday, the Fox Valley region has gone from having 24 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 to 79. In that same time, the northeastern region of the state has gone from 29 patients to 66.

Meanwhile, hospital officials are pleading with the public to wear masks, social distance and wash their hands. ThedaCare, which operates in the northeastern part of the state, posted a video on social media sharing a frank assessment of what’s at stake for the Appleton community if people don’t take precautions during the pandemic.

“Do we really want to tackle this pandemic in the four walls of a hospital in a hospital bed? Or do we really want to tackle this pandemic in a community? And we have the power to do that together,” said ThedaCare President and CEO Dr. Imran Andrabi. “We’ve done it before, and we can do it again. We can change the direction of the curve downward one more time.”

Data posted on the Wisconsin Hospital Association COVID-19 dashboard shows the state has sufficient ventilator availability, and that less than a quarter of available ICU beds are currently occupied.

However, seasonal flu typically sickens several thousand people to the point they need hospitalization, leaving officials concerned.

“If we don’t double down on all those things that help control the pandemic, we will see more cases and more hospitalizations, and we could come to a pinch point where either physical capacity or the health care workforce is maxing out. We’re not there now, and we hope we never get there,” said Kaufman.

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