COVID-19 update: 21 COVID patients at Gundersen Health System

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– Just over a week after Gundersen Health System reopened its’ COVID-19 unit, staff in La Crosse are caring for 21 patients.

“We have hit the 20 mark in the past couple of days. So this is where, even like 2 or 3 weeks ago we were having an average of I want say 4 or 5 patients. That has increased dramatically and very rapidly, too, within the past two weeks,” Meller said.

Megan Meller, infection preventionist at Gundersen Health System, said hospitalizations and cases will likely continue to rise because of the Delta Variant, which is more contagious than other strains.

“Previous versions of COVID-19, if you were vaccinated you could not transmit the virus,” UW Health Chief Quality Officer Jeff Pothof said. “Delta changed that. With the Delta variant, people who are vaccinated, some percent of them can transmit the virus.”

As the virus spreads through our community, health experts says it can mutate and be more resistant to the current vaccines.

“We do need to take action to stop further spread now due to some waning immunity we are seeing from the original vaccines,” Melanie Smith, physician at Mayo Clinic Health System said.

Director of the La Crosse County Health Department, Audra Martine, wants people to know that because the vaccine is less effective against the Delta variant, we need to up our precautions, even after being vaccinated.

“We can’t do the same thing and expect to be as successful,” Martine said.

The best thing Martine says people can do… is practice what she calls “layered protection.”

That includes masking up, getting vaccinated, practicing social distancing and getting tested if symptomatic.

Mayo Clinic Health System will not say how many of it’s La Crosse patients are hospitalized with COVID.

A spokesman did tell us Mayo is offering immunocompromised patients a vaccine booster.

Gundersen will begin offering boosters to eligible patients next week.