Health & Fitness

Inexperienced Bay on ‘verge of a disaster’ as virus overwhelms hospitals, Wisconsin physician says

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A hospital in northeast Wisconsin is considering pausing elective procedures as health officials grapple with rising coronavirus cases and a double-digit positivity rate.

Dr. Paul Casey, who heads the emergency department for Bellin Health Systems in Green Bay, Wisconsin, told CNBC’s Shepard Smith on Thursday that hospital beds have been at or near capacity over the past week and that it’s weighing on both staff and operations.

“We are on the verge of a crisis in Green Bay and our surrounding counties,” Casey said in an appearance on “The News with Shepard Smith.” 

The Midwest state set a fresh one-day record of 3,132 new Covid-19 cases, topping the previous record that came just days prior, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. With the exception of the northwest region, the entire state has seen Covid-19 hospitalizations surge double digits between late September and early October.

More than 80% of Wisconsin’s hospital and intensive care unit capacities are in use, according to the state’s health department website. Casey is expecting an “overload” in admissions in coming weeks.

Further weighing on the care being provided to patients is the fact that as many as 200 medical workers are out sick, he added, battling their own bouts with the virus that has now infected nearly 7.6 million and led to more than 212,000 deaths in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

“We see a frighteningly rising trend of Covid positivity rate above 20% in our community,” Casey said.

Bellin Hospital, which specializes in heart and vascular service among others, could be forced to reduce what procedures it can provide to patients to retain resources to fight the ongoing health crisis. The health institution shut down elective surgeries in the spring.

“If the rise continues and isn’t abated, we’re going to have to cancel elective surgeries again. We have not done that yet, but it’s close,” Casey said.

The rise in cases can be attributed to “Covid fatigue,” people who refuse to wear masks and small gatherings, he said. Individuals are looking to return their lives to some sense of normalcy, but states across the country dealt with spikes in cases as they reopened their economies after state governments enforced strict lockdowns earlier this year to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The timing of the spike in Wisconsin, a critical battleground state in the presidential election, comes as the public counts down the days to both Election Day in November and the holiday season.

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Katherine Clark