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Capital City Sunday: U.S. Army deployed to struggling hospitals, COVID-19 vaccine developments

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The U.S. Army sent dozens of medical workers to Wisconsin this weekend to relieve overworked and exhausted health care workers on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19. 

The Department of Defense sent 45 medical workers to four Marshfield Medical clinics in Beaver Dam, Eau Claire, Marshfield, and Rice Lake. 

All four facilities continue to deal with some of the highest infection rates with a majority of their front line workers working long hours under difficult conditions. 

“They are doing so much work that is just beyond what we had anticipated in our health care careers,” said Angelia Foster, the chief administrative officer at Marshfield Medical Center – Beaver Dam.

For weeks, the facility has been listed in the top 20 in the nation for average daily cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period, according to the New York Times.  

The first round of federal help for the hospital came in the form of 17 health workers from the Department of Health and Human Services. That team has since left. Now, 14 Army medical workers are at the hospital and will stay for 30 days. 

“We are hopeful we will be in a better position to keep up with the demand of our community but we are also fully preparing ourselves that we might have to ask them for an extension,” said Forster.

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution, AstraZeneca Developments

Help will soon be on the way in the form of a COVID-19 vaccine. UW Health will be one of the vaccine distribution hubs for our area. They expect to begin giving staff members the vaccine as early as this week.

Another vaccine is also starting to show some promising signs. AstraZeneca recently announced its vaccine is up to 90% effective, but that has varied depending on the strength of doses.

UW Health in Madison has been part of the AstraZeneca clinical trials over the last several months and doctors and staff are encouraged by the recent developments.

“It continues to have a good safety provide and we have not heard of any adverse symptoms in the U.S., so overall it continues to be a safe and effective vaccine,” said Dr. William Hartman, lead principal investigator for UW Health's AstraZeneca trials. 

AstraZeneca currently has about two-thirds of the participants needed in order for the vaccine trials to be completed. Hartman expects the company to reach the remaining third by the end of December or the first few weeks of 2021. 

The AstraZeneca vaccine is less expensive and easier to store for long periods of time compared to its competitors.

In September, the vaccine trial was put on hold after a participant experienced neurological symptoms, a move Hartman praised. 

“It’s encouraging that the FDA truly takes the safety of vaccines very seriously.”

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Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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