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MADISON – Gov. Tony Evers on Friday officially declared a new COVID-19 public health emergency in Wisconsin as the state’s hospitals are operating at or very near full capacity, and healthcare providers are struggling to keep up with the demand for care.
The orders are effective immediately and will expire after 60 days or with a subsequent order. All Wisconsin residents, ages five and older, must wear a face-covering when they are indoors or in an enclosed space with anyone outside their household or living unit.
Evers told a media briefing earlier this week that he planned to issue new orders that would replace orders from September that had been set to expire Saturday (Nov. 21) because the spread of COVID-19 cases has worsened in recent weeks.
“Wisconsin hospitals are overwhelmed and facing staffing shortages,” Evers said in a prepared statement on Friday. “We continue to see record-setting days of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin. We need everyone to stay home and wear a mask if you have to go out. We need your help to stop the spread of this virus, and we all have to do this together.”
More than a third of all hospitals in Wisconsin are operating at peak capacity and cannot admit new patients. The Department of Health Services (DHS) reported that COVID-19 patients occupy 21 percent of medical-surgical beds and 32 percent of intensive care unit beds. With the large and growing influx of COVID-19 patients, fewer beds and resources are available for people with non-COVID-19 conditions who require hospitalization.
The surge in patients has caused ripple effects through the hospital system, with intermediate care units treating more patients who would otherwise be transferred to the intensive care unit and fewer transfers to larger hospitals for patients needing higher levels of care.
In addition to the lack of hospital beds, hospitals are facing widespread staffing shortages. Over a third of Wisconsin hospitals are reporting critical staffing shortages. Forty-two percent of hospitals expect a vital staffing shortage within a week. Multiple hospital systems have requested and received staffing assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Wisconsin is experiencing unprecedented, near-exponential growth of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the average daily number of new cases currently at 6,254, almost double the average daily cases seen a month ago, and an increase of 260 percent since September 20, when the average case number was 1,720.