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Record COVID hospitalizations putting strain on some WI hospitals

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MADISON (WKOW) -- More people than ever are right now fighting COVID-19 from hospital beds.

Thursday, state health officials said 528 people were hospitalized due to the virus. That figure broke 500 for the first time ever Wednesday.

UW-Health's Dr. Jeff Pothof says infection rates are rising because people aren't being careful enough.

"I think they so much want to get back to normal, that they're willing to take more risk than they were before," he said. "Unfortunately, their risk calculations are coming up short, and they're getting themselves infected."

Dr. Mark Kaufman with the Wisconsin Hospital Association says there's a strain on hospitals, particularly in the Fox Valley, Northeast and North Central regions.

"There is no doubt that we are in a significant near-crunch time in a number of regions in the state," he said.

Southwestern Wisconsin hasn't seen that same increase in hospitalizations yet, and Dr. Pothof had a few ideas why.

"Probably in those counties (that are seeing increases), they thought maybe they'd be okay because they were smaller, didn't have as many people," he said. "Those types of decisions are probably leading to increased cases."

Eighty-two percent of hospital beds in Wisconsin are full right now, but learning from last spring, hospitals have plans.

"Here at UW Health, we have a really solid plan for how we will continue to try to create capacity," Dr. Pothof said. "But all those plans have an endpoint. You cannot infinitely expand."

Dr. Kaufman says across the state, though, there's a staffing problem, as well.

"People who have close contact who are asymptomatic, including healthcare workers, have to take precautions in terms of isolation or quarantine," he said. "And that dynamic is really having an impact in the last week on hospitals' abilities to staff."

All of this is happening as flu season kicks into gear, and hospitals ready for those patients, as well.

"We really don't know how people will react if they are coinfected with both COVID and influenza," Dr. Kaufman said. "But it is not likely to be good."

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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