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With COVID-19 hospitalizations up in Dane County, officials urge masks, staying home
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With COVID-19 hospitalizations up in Dane County, officials urge masks, staying home

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Janel Heinrich

Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison and Dane County, confers with reporters in July. Heinrich said Friday that recent COVID-19 cases can be found throughout the county, not just in Madison.

With COVID-19 hospitalizations up in Dane County — but not as much as in other parts of the state — local hospital and health officials on Friday urged residents to stay home to reduce spread of the virus and preserve hospital capacity as flu season gets underway.

“We are perilously close” to the county’s peak of COVID-19 hospitalizations in April, said Dr. Nasia Safdar, medical director of infection control at UW Health. “It is vital at this point to preserve the capacity of the health care systems and, equally importantly, to protect the health care workforce.”

UW Hospital has about 12 to 15 COVID-19 patients and SSM St. Mary’s Hospital and UnityPoint Health-Meriter each have roughly 10, representatives said Friday.

The county had 34 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, the last day for which data were available, down from 37 the two previous days but double the number from just two weeks ago. The peak in early April was 46.

Statewide, hospitalizations for the coronavirus soared from 275 as of Sept. 5 to a record of 683 on Wednesday before dipping to 669 Thursday and 663 Friday — the first decreases since early September. Much of the recent increase has been in the Fox Valley and northeast Wisconsin.

Hospitals around the state are in “contingency mode,” Ann Zenk, a senior vice president at the Wisconsin Hospital Association, told the Wisconsin State Journal Thursday. If the uptick doesn’t subside within the next two or three weeks, the situation could shift to “crisis stage,” she said.

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The increase in hospitalizations comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin, with more than a tripling of average daily cases last month and a record 2,887 cases reported Thursday and another 2,745 on Friday.

Deaths are also up, with a record 27 deaths Wednesday and 21 deaths reported Thursday. On Friday, the state reported five deaths.

Dane County’s daily average of cases has been about 120 this week, down from a daily average of more than 200 in early September, when most of the cases were among UW-Madison students returning to campus. But the recent activity is still higher than the average of just over 100 cases a day during the county’s previous peak in late June and early July.

With some recent cases, those infected said they attended gatherings, such as weddings and Green Bay Packers football game watching parties, said Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison and Dane County.

Cases are found throughout the county, not just in Madison, Heinrich said.

She and others urged people to stay home as much as possible. When going out, people should wear masks, keep distance from others and avoid large groups, she said.

“No part of Dane County is immune,” Heinrich said. “For cases to go down, for kids to go back to school, for businesses to fully reopen, now is when we all need to act.”

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