Wisconsin’s new overflow facility begins accepting coronavirus patients


MADISON (NewsNation Now) — As Wisconsin faces an increase in coronavirus hospitalizations, a new overflow facility for COVID-19 patients is opening at state fairgrounds near Milwaukee Wednesday.

Gov. Tony Evers announced the alternate care facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park last week, due to a strain on the state’s hospital system. The facility will accept its first COVID-19 patients Wednesday, a day after Wisconsin reported record highs for positive cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

The state Department of Health Services reported 3,279 confirmed new cases, breaking a record of 3,132 cases, which was set just five days earlier. There were 34 deaths reported, also a new high, bringing the total number of people who have died in the state to 1,508. To date, more than 155,000 people in Wisconsin have tested positive for the virus.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,727 more than double the 1,141 from a month ago.

The number of people in the hospital due to COVID-19 also hit an all-time high for a second day in a row, growing from 950 to 959, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association. There were 243 patients in intensive care.

Wisconsin’s death count as of Monday was the 30th highest in the country overall and the 42nd highest per capita at more than 25 deaths per 100,000 people. The 595 new cases per 100,000 people in Wisconsin over the past two weeks, which ranks fourth in the country for new cases per capita.

Evers attributed the increase to the Wisconsin Supreme Court striking down his “safer at home” order in May at the request of his Republican opponents, as well as fatigue over wearing masks and other recommendations to slow the spread.

“We let down our guard,” he said on a conference call.

Republicans successfully sued to overturn Evers’ “safer at home” order earlier this year and are now suing to overturn the governor’s statewide mask mandate. A GOP-controlled legislative committee took steps on Monday to block new indoor capacity limits that he ordered.

Outbreaks have also been reported at three state prisons — the Racine Correctional Institution/Sturtevant Transitional Facility, the Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution and the Oshkosh Correctional Institution.

Evers urged people to stay at home, wear masks when they go out, limit exposure to others and maintain a social distance.

The alternate care facility opening at State Fair Park will be able to handle up to 50 patients, and can increase its capacity based on need, according to state health secretary Andrea Palm.

The facility is not a hospital, and won’t accept walk-in patients. The governor’s office said it’ll serve as “a transitional facility to offer oxygen and medical care for COVID-19 patients who still need support in their recovery,” but who aren’t considered seriously ill.

“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,” the office said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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