With COVID-19 hospitalizations at a pandemic high in Dane County and a near-record level statewide, hospitals are urging the public to get vaccinated and avoid going to emergency rooms for coronavirus tests.
Dane County had 184 patients in hospitals with COVID-19, the highest since the pandemic began, Public Health Madison and Dane County reported Monday. The previous high was 179 on Nov. 18, 2020, before vaccinations were available. The county hit that figure again Wednesday and since Friday has had at least 183 patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
Statewide, as of Friday, 2,109 patients were in hospitals with COVID-19, near the record of 2,277 on Nov. 16, 2020, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association. The group hadn’t updated its data since Friday.
Among the patients, 472 were on ventilators as of Friday, down slightly from the record of 475 on Thursday.
“Imagine suffering a heart attack, stroke or car accident and having to wait for care, or being transported miles away to find an open hospital bed. This is happening in Wisconsin,” says a new public service announcement from the Healthy Wisconsin Alliance, a group of corporate sponsors working with the Wisconsin Hospital Association and other health care groups.
The ad urges people to “get vaccinated, get a booster, so we can be here for you.”
On Monday, the hospital association asked people to stop going to ERs for COVID-19 tests because ERs are “under extreme stress” from surging COVID-19 cases and seasonal increases in demand for care.
“Patients seeking COVID-19 tests at hospitals not only delay the provision of urgent care in emergency rooms, but also raise the risk of virus spread among medically vulnerable patients,” the group said.
Tests can be sought from primary care clinics, pharmacies and community sites, in addition to home test kits, the group said. Testing has also resumed at the Alliant Energy Center, where appointments are required.
Madison hospitals said Thursday they were “at capacity” and postponing many non-emergency procedures.
The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Dane County, which has the state’s highest COVID-19 vaccination rate, includes people who live in the county and in other counties, as is typical for patients in Madison-area hospitals for other reasons.
In late December, when the highly transmissible omicron variant became widespread, the age-adjusted rate of new COVID-19 cases in the county was 1.9 times higher among residents not fully vaccinated than those fully vaccinated, Public Health Madison and Dane County said last week. The rate was 4.3 times higher among the unvaccinated than those who had received booster or additional doses, the health department said.
People vaccinated with the initial series only were 2.3 times more likely to test positive than people who received a booster or additional dose, the department said.
Wisconsin’s daily average of new COVID-19 cases on Monday reached a record 9,063, as the omicron variant continued to spread, according to the state Department of Health Services.