MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) – Wisconsin health officials announced Wednesday that a field hospital would open at the state fairgrounds near Milwaukee in the coming days as a surge in COVID-19 cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals.
Wisconsin became a hot spot for the disease last month, ranking third nationwide this week with new cases per capita every day. Health experts have attributed the surge to college and K-12 schools reopening, as well as overall mask fatigue and social distancing.
The office of Democratic Governor Tony Evers said in a statement that the facility will be open to patients for the next week.
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The move also came when a state judge pondered a lawsuit to dismiss Evers’ mandate that masks are worn in closed public spaces.
According to the Department of Health, only 16% of the state’s 11,452 hospital beds were available as of Tuesday afternoon. The number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital had grown to 853 and was highest during the pandemic, according to the COVID Tracking Project, with 216 in intensive care.
The results of the COVID-19 tests on an additional 262 inpatients in Wisconsin were pending. The southeastern region of the state had 250 COVID-19 patients, most of the state’s seven hospital regions.
According to the COVID Tracking Project, around 30,000 coronavirus patients are being hospitalized across Germany.
Virus spread is also poor in northeastern Wisconsin. The Green Bay Packers announced this week that home fans will not be allowed to play home games until the situation improves, and head coach Matt LaFleur urged residents to wear masks and practice social distancing.
At the request of the Evers administration, the US Army Corps of Engineers built a 530-bed field hospital on the state exhibition grounds in West Allis, just outside Milwaukee, in April. Local leaders had warned of the possibility of congestion in local hospitals, but hospital stays never reached the point where the hospital was needed.
The hospital will accept patients from across Wisconsin, but is designed to provide low-level care. According to the State Department of Administration, only patients who have been hospitalized elsewhere for at least 24 to 48 hours are admitted. Qualified patients are brought to the facility by ambulance. The facility does not accept walk-ins.
“The goal of this facility is to remove less sick COVID-19 patients from hospitals and reserve hospital beds for patients who are sick and need hospital-level care,” said Evers’ office.
The hospital will be staffed by volunteers, government employees and members of the National Guard, DOA officials said. Patients are not allowed to have visitors.
Several other states set up field hospitals in the early stages of the pandemic – at great expense – only to find that they had little to no benefitand many were closed.