COVID-related deaths in La Crosse County climbing again

Seven people in the county have died from the virus in the last month; there weren't any deaths for most of May to mid-August

(WKBT) – The number of people dying from complications of COVID-19 in La Crosse County is rising to a level we haven’t seen since last winter.

Local experts point to the Delta variant.

“I think this Delta variant seems to be a little bit more clinically burdensome,” said Dr. Joseph Poterucha, who provides ICU services at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.

It’s what is driving capacity limits at Mayo Clinic Health System’s hospital.

“It’s not a situation of necessarily staffing,” Poterucha said. “The beds are in use.”

And more people are in need of critical care.

According to data from the Wisconsin DHS, 98 people in La Crosse County have died from COVID complications. That’s up from 91 just a month ago. Between most of May and the middle of August, there were no deaths.

“Definitely, the burden of the Delta variant is taking full force in our region,” Poterucha said.

Most of Mayo’s hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

Poterucha says many hospitalized patients are between 40 to 50 years old.

The number of people being admitted to the hospital are constantly fluctuating.

“I’d say our ICU is currently at capacity,” Poterucha said. “But a couple days ago, we had many beds open.”

But Poterucha believes things will only get worse in a month.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the theme is that we are at capacity continuously, and if we need to think about opening up other units like we did last fall and winter,” he said.

Especially with fewer COVID-19 restrictions, and flu season right around the corner.

“I really think that it might be a different ballgame this time around,” Poterucha said.

Poterucha says Mayo is still providing elective procedures.

However, he didn’t rule out the possibility of the healthcare system directing patients to other places if Mayo’s hospital capacity gets full on a regular basis.

As of Tuesday, Gundersen Health System has roughly between 30 to 40 hospitalized COVID patients.

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