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Some hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, nearing capacity as cases surge

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Coronavirus COVID19

MADISON (WKOW) --- State health officials are beginning to worry now more than ever as some of our hospitals are seeing an uptick in the number of COVID-19 patients which could force some facilities to send patients elsewhere.

Over the last week, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized increased by 73 percent, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) website, jumping from 331 cases to 573 on Wednesday.

Health officials say they may have to open a state-operated field hospital due to a surge in cases but acknowledge while we are not there yet, the trends are alarming.

"We are concerned about certain hospitals in certain regions reaching high levels of capacity,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, Deputy Secretary for DHS.

Some hospitals in the northeastern part of the state, Green Bay, Wausau, and the Fox Vally are overwhelmed right now. Dr. Paul Casey, the medical director of Bellin Hospital in Green Bay said his facility is overflowing with patients. 

"Over the last three weeks, we have had a remarkable surge in COVID patients after being down to one in-patient in the first part of June," Casey said.

Bellin is also shifting a wait-list for patients for nonelective procedures or sending them elsewhere to save beds for those who become infected with the coronavirus.

DHS Secretary Adrean Palm said during a media briefing on Tuesday they have heard of any reports of patients being turned away from hospitals but did acknowledge some patients could be transferred to other facilities if cases continue to develop in certain regions. 

At the beginning of the month, most of the state showed no significant increase in the number of COVID-19 patients being treated at hospitals. By now the entire state is showing a "growing trend," according to a DHS data map.

State officials are urging people to do their part to prevent the spread of the virus so hospitals don't reach capacity limits but many are concerned the trends will only progress.

"Let's nip this in the bud so we don't get to a point where our hospitals are overrun," said Van Dijk.

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Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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