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As COVID-19 cases and increased hospitalizations surge, Wisconsin public health officials want residents to stay home.

The state saw cases climb to its highest level at 5,262 daily cases in Wisconsin. This pushed the total cumulative cases to 206,311 since March. Closer to home, Racine County saw 295 new cases on Tuesday, which brought the cumulative total to 7,299 cases.

Hospitalizations in Southeastern Wisconsin represented 535 of the 1,350 people hospitalized on Monday. Stressing out hospital capacity in southeastern Wisconsin, the number of beds immediately available for all cases has declined significantly, officials said.

During a press conference held Tuesday,Governor Tony Evers and DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm pleaded with the public to stay home.

“One month ago, our average was 2,090, and two months ago, it was only 700, ” Palm said. “In the past two months, our seven-day average has increased by more than 400 %. With this many new cases each day. Our contact tracers are overwhelmed. Hospitals across our state are strained and operating with critical and imminent staffing shortages.”

“Wisconsin is in a crisis.”

Why hospital beds are growing scarce

One of the issues causing the lack of available beds relates to staffing issues at long-term care facilities struggling with COVID-19 outbreaks. As the state works with the long-term care facilities in reducing exposure to COVID-19, people needing post-acute care are staying longer in hospitals so that those residents remain in a safe setting, Palm said.

“We are utilizing our beds and our surge infrastructure in a way that makes sure we are able to keep these vulnerable communities as safe as possible,” she said.

This is one of the reasons why the state opened an alternative care facility at State Fair Park, which currently has five patients.

Slowing down the spread

Despite not having a statewide mandate, Evers called on Wisconsin residents to stop thinking the virus won’t happen to them, that stopping the spread of the virus is a “team sport.”

“Well, there are a lot of people across our state who are doing the right thing staying home and wearing masks whenever they go out,” Evers said. “But we also know these folks: They don’t exist in a bubble, with one person or a family, or group of people.

“They aren’t going to wear masks. They are not going to cancel their in-person plans or parties. They are gonna go about their days and their lives, business as usual. It ruins it for everyone else.”

When asked if Evers was asking for residents to do a self-imposed lockdown, he responded: “I call it saving lives.”

What to do if you get sick

Wisconsin DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said the number of COVID cases and hospitalizations would get worse before they got better.

She called on residents to take the following actions:

  • Stay home. Do not interact with people that you do not live with.
  • Go out for the essentials groceries, the pharmacy, your job if you cannot work from home, but cancel travel and social gatherings.
  • Wear a mask, your mask protects me and my mask protects you.
  • Practice physical distancing. Stay six feet apart, even when wearing a mask.
  • Wash our hands frequently.
  • If you have symptoms or, or have been exposed to COVID-19. Get tested
  • Quarantine while you wait for your results. Isolate from the people you live with.
  • If you test positive, help contact tracers by calling your own contacts and encouraging them to get tested, and to quarantine.

Need to find out where to get tested?

Mental health resources

Healthy Wisconsin Partnership

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.