JEFFERSON — As hospitals across Wisconsin experience a surge in coronavirus patients now topping 2,100, Fort HealthCare on Thursday said it is at a critical level for care.
“We’re at a critical level both regionally and at FHC with the ability to care for COVID patients (who require special spaces and resources), but continue to have capacity for non-COVID patients in need of care,” said Fort HealthCare spokesperson Nicole Leibman.
Hospitals have reported that 90 percent of beds across the state are full on a day that witnessed near-record numbers again, with 7,497 new cases on Thursday. The state likely will top the 300,000-mark Friday.
Since Sept. 1, the number of cases of the virus has quadrupled in Wisconsin. The seven-day rolling average then was 727 cases a day; now, it is 6,209.
In Jefferson County, the state Department of Health Services reported 3,947 positive cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, as well as 196 probable cases on Thursday. There have been 29 deaths, and one probable death due to the virus. The seven-day rolling average in the county is 97 new cases per day per 100,000 people.
Fort Atkinson’s cases have risen to 907, while Jefferson has recorded 506; Lake Mills, 273; Waterloo, 256; Johnson Creek, 203; Palmyra, 147; and Sullivan, 128.
“We have seen an exponential rise in cases over the past couple of months, and it has culminated in this critical level of cases that we see right now,” said Samroz Jakvani, epidemiologist with the Jefferson County Health Department.
“Our systems cannot continue with their current capacities if the spread continues to increase as it has.”
Over the past seven days, Jakvani said, there has been 477 positive cases of COVID-19 in Jefferson County, an average of 68 per day.
“Those numbers are likely far less than the true number of infections occurring, as our testing capacities continue to progress toward where they need to be,” he said.
While hospitals in this region of the state are not operating at critically alarming rates as in other areas, Jakvani said, there is an alarming shortage of available beds and staff.
“Immediate bed availability has decreased by 74 percent since Monday for our region,” he said.
The Mayo Clinic Health System says its hospitals in the northwestern region of Wisconsin are full to capacity. System officials say 100 percent of their beds are full at hospitals in the region, which encompasses Barron, Bloomer, Eau Claire, Osseo and Menomonie.
“The public urgently needs to treat COVID-19 as the health emergency it is to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. We are pleading for everyone’s help to wear a mask and follow all public health guidelines to limit the spread of this disease,” regional vice president Richard Helmers, regional administrator Jason Craig and chief nursing officer Pam White said in a joint statement.
They said 50 percent of the patients in intensive care have COVID-19 and 40 percent of their medical or surgical beds are filled with coronavirus patients. In addition, 300 workers are on work restrictions due to COVID-19 exposure.
Last month, Mayo Clinic Health System announced it was postponing elective procedures in the region temporarily.
Gov. Tony Evers urged Wisconsin residents this week to stay home as case numbers continue to surge in Wisconsin, with the state having the sixth-most cases in the nation since the pandemic started in March.
While states like Texas and California are approaching the million mark for cases, Illinois is the largest current outbreak in the nation with more 80,025 cases in the last seven days alone. That’s 22,000 more than Texas had in the last week.
With the surge in cases, testing sites continue to be added in Jefferson County.
The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is serving as a COVID-19 testing site for the greater community. Anyone 5 years and older may get a rapid antigen test from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, at the Kris Russell Volleyball Arena in the Williams Center, 907 W. Schwager Dr., in Whitewater.
Free parking is available in lots 7 and 9 on Warhawk Drive. Note that during Thanksgiving week, testing will be offered Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday only, Nov. 23-25.
Pre-registration is required at doineedacovid19test.com.
This is a rapid antigen test (nasal swab). People will receive their results within 15 minutes, and space is set aside for people to safely distance while they wait.
Individuals who test negative using the rapid antigen test, but who also are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or who test positive but do not have symptoms, are urged to get a confirmatory PCR test. A free PCR test will be available immediately to those who qualify on site.
In addition, the Wisconsin National Guard is providing free testing at Jefferson County Fair Park in Jefferson each Friday and Saturday through the first part of December. Drive-up free testing takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 5. People with questions may call (920) 674-7275 or email COVID19@JeffersonCountywi.gov.
Across the nation, school systems in Detroit, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and suburban Minneapolis are giving up on in-person classes, and some governors are reimposing restrictions on bars and restaurants or getting more serious about masks.
The crisis deepened at hospitals, with the situation so bad in North Dakota that the governor this week said nurses who test positive but have no symptoms can still work.
But newly confirmed cases per day in the U.S. have rocketed more than 70 percent over the past two weeks, reaching an average of about 127,000 — the highest on record. And the number of people currently hospitalized with the virus hit an all-time high of more than 65,000.