Wisconsin seen as COVID-19 hotspot, health experts warn of grim outcomes

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Wisconsin is now being seen as a COVID-19 hotspot, according to UW Health. Health experts expect a grim outcome if Wisconsinites don’t change their behavior.

We saw it begin in other states with big cities, but now it’s creeping closer to home.

“We started seeing increases in counties that we would consider more rural counties, or counties without as much population, and that was a bit of a change for the state. It wasn’t just a problem for our more urban areas, it’s a problem for the whole state at this point,” said Jeff Pothof, of UW Health.

COVID-19 case counts have broken record numbers in Wisconsin, where over the weekend, 2,817 new cases in one day were reported by the Wisconsin Health Department.

“Our behavior is what has to be driving this spike in cases,” said Pothof.

Pothof attributes this behavior to not wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing.

“In Wisconsin you’re seeing these cases crop up, all across the board, the number of cases in all these different age groups are going up,” said Megan Meller, an infection preventionist at Gundersen Health System.

We can see this in La Crosse County, where a majority of cases are in the 20-29 age group, but 10% of the data is also from those ages 80 and above.

“I might not get as sick from COVID-19, doesn’t mean that the next person I interact with doesn’t,” said Meller.

The La Crosse County Health Department’s case data shows that this past week, one hundred percent of the origin of those contracting the virus were from a close contact.

These increases are being seen in the health care community.

“I’ve seen an uptick in the number of cases admitted, so far it’s been in the single digits, the ICU is slowly starting to tick up a little bit,” said Joseph Poterucha, Chair of Critical Care at Mayo Clinic Health System.

“We’re going to see more people hospitalized, and then unfortunately at some point we’ll see more deaths,” said Pothof.

Both La Crosse health systems report their hospitals still have the capacity for COVID-19 patients, but UW Health says those systems may become stressed.

“All of those plans have an endpoint, and there is no hospital with infinite capacity. And that’s a real worry for those of us in health care because the last thing we want to do is to provide anything less than grade A medical care to the citizens of our state,” said Pothof.

The health experts said the lag in COVID-19 symptoms are usually between seven and 10 days. And they say we can expect to see an increase in positive cases within the coming weeks.