Gundersen, Mayo send out plea to take COVID-19 spike seriously

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Gundersen Health System and Mayo Clinic Health System of La Crosse sent out a joint plea Thursday morning urging the community to take the recent increase in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths seriously.

“We just have to get back to following the guidelines,” said Scott Rathgaber, CEO of Gundersen Health System, in an interview with News 8 Now.

The positivity rate is up from 16.3% last week to 27.2% this week, according to the county health department. That means there is an increase in infections and people should expect to be exposed to a positive case when in public.

“When it’s at that level of positivity we know that community spread is pretty strong,” said Dr. Paul Mueller, chair of internal medicine at Mayo Clinic Health System.

Where previous spikes were caused by the return of students and large gatherings, now it’s about family gatherings, dinner parties and attending weddings. It’s likely being spread by people who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic.

“They’re spreading the virus and they’re doing it in day to day activities. Going to the grocery store. Going to gatherings,” Mueller said.

The county was able to flatten the curve after a spike in mid-June and again in mid-September. Both Mueller and Rathgarber urge everyone to take the virus seriously and follow precautions if they haven’t before.

“We absolutely need the help of our community, everyone in the community, to take this seriously. Because we are seeing increased illness and deaths because of this surge,” Rathgaber said.

Read it in its entirety here:

Local healthcare providers need your help.

Our region is in its greatest fight against coronavirus. We are seeing increased infections, hospitalizations and deaths in our communities. Our staff are strained. Our testing sites have longer lines and higher positivity rates.

We were able to flatten the curve and avoid tragedy last spring and summer with your help. By masking, distancing, and hand washing, we protected each other, limited the spread of the virus, and saved lives.

For a variety of reasons, we lost ground. To keep our friends and families healthy and ease the strain on our hospitals, we must rededicate ourselves to following established, proven safety measures. We have done it before. We can do it again.

While it is encouraging to see many of our neighbors and businesses adhering to the safety guidelines, it is greatly disappointing to see those who are not.

Local health systems remain open and safe for care of all types, but the rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations threaten our ability to care for you.

If everyone DOES NOT avoid large gatherings in the community, wear a mask, keep distance from others, wash hands, and stay home when ill, we risk:

  • Postponing or cancelling surgeries, procedures and appointments
  • Running out of beds to care for people who need immediate Hospital care
  • Not having enough staff to provide care to patients, COVID and non-COVID
  • Preventable deaths in our communities

This has been a long and hard several months. We know the end is not yet in sight. We know you are tired and want to resume a normal life. We are tired, too.
Now is not the time to let our guard down and suffer the fate of so many other communities across the state and nation. We have shown that we care enough about each other to work together to defeat this pandemic.

Your actions make a difference. Together, we will succeed.

Scott Rathgaber, MD
Chief Executive Officer
Gundersen Health System


Paul Mueller, MD
Regional Vice President
Mayo Clinic Health System