Wisconsin activates 530-bed field hospital as COVID-19 spread strains capacity

Coronavirus

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s governor has announced the opening of a field hospital at the state fairgrounds as a surge in COVID-19 cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

According to the state Department of Health Services, only 16% of the state’s 11,452 hospital beds are available as of Tuesday afternoon.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has grown to 853, with 216 of them in intensive care. Results of COVID-19 tests on an additional 262 in-patients are pending.

Gov. Evers’ office said in a statement that the facility will open for patients within the next week.

“We hoped this day wouldn’t come, but unfortunately, Wisconsin is in a much different, more dire place today and our healthcare systems are beginning to become overwhelmed by the surge of COVID-19 cases,” Evers said in the statement. “This alternative care facility will take some of the pressure off our healthcare facilities while expanding the continuum of care for folks who have COVID-19.”

The move also came as a state judge was considering a lawsuit seeking to strike down Evers’ mandate that masks be worn in enclosed public spaces.

Only 16% of the state’s 11,452 hospital beds were available as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the state Department of Health Services. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients had grown to 853, it’s highest during the pandemic according to the COVID Tracking Project, with 216 in intensive care.

The hospital will accept patients from across Wisconsin but is designed to provide low-level care, and it will accept only patients who have already been hospitalized elsewhere for at least 24 to 48 hours, according to the state Department of Administration. Patients who qualify will be transported to the facility by ambulance. The facility will not accept walk-ins.

“The goal of this facility is to transition COVID-19 patients who are less ill out of hospitals and reserve hospital beds for patients who are more ill and in need of hospital-level care,” Evers’ office said.

The hospital will be staffed by volunteers, state workers and National Guard members, DOA officials said. Patients will not be allowed to have visitors.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a 530-bed field hospital on the state fairgrounds in West Allis in April but hospitalizations hadn’t increased so much that it needed to open until now.

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