BELOIT — Residents weary from months of COVID-19 virus mitigation efforts should hang in there and continue to practice social distancing, masking and proper hand hygiene as case counts and hospitalizations continue to rise locally, local officials are urging.
Beloit Health System CEO Tim McKevett said a total of 12 patients are hospitalized at Beloit Memorial Hospital due to COVID-19, an increase from zero in-patient admissions at the end of August. The hospital has around 30 intensive care unit (ICU) beds available for serious COVID-19 patients.
Testing has also increases since August with health system staff conducting an average of 100 virus tests daily this month compared to 40 daily virus tests completed in August.
The Rock County Health Department on Monday reported there are 30 people hospitalized throughout the county due to COVID-19 and the positivity rate for COVID-19 tests in the county was at 83%. On Tuesday, the positivity rate for COVID-19 tests in the county was 65%.
“We are well-prepared in terms of therapeutics, personal protective equipment and hospital capacity,” McKevett said. “We are busy and we have to watch closely that we maintain adequate staffing levels to help our community.”
As to what might be causing the spike, McKevett said the topic has come up among Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) members and the consensus is the increase may be due to multiple factors.
“It’s a combination of things, really,” McKevett said. “In Madison and college areas, it’s the increase in returning student populations. It’s also due to end-of-summer gatherings. It’s also due to what we are calling “COVID-19 Fatigue.” People are tired of being away from their loved ones, wearing masks and social distancing. But I urge them to hang in there and reiterate that we can’t let our guard down.”
McKevett said the health system has had “less than 40” staff members who tested positive for the virus, noting that no infections were directly linked to transmission of the virus from the hospital.
Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther said that a total of two firefighters in the Beloit Fire Department tested positive for the virus, as a total of 10 city workers have contracted COVID-19. Fire department staff in contact with the two infected staff members are now on quarantine, with the department requesting staff meet overtime requirements to maintain needed staffing levels.
“We’ve had no trouble getting people to stay or come back in (for overtime),” Luther said.
Luther said the city had originally looked at working with neighboring fire departments to meet required staffing levels while Beloit staff quarantine, but said area departments are having similar issues.
“We’re finding that everyone is in the same boat,” Luther said. “We are able to meet mutual aid requirements with other departments, but other departments don’t have the capacity to help fill in on a routine basis for a short period of time. We’re able to maintain minimum staffing levels while impacted staff quarantine.”
Due to the increasing numbers of city employees testing positive for the virus, Luther said the city would begin notifying the public on a weekly basis regarding affected staff.
Both McKevett and Luther said residents should continue social distancing, wearing masks and proper hand-washing, with McKevett telling residents to get influenza immunizations as the health system readies for a spike in flu-related illnesses along with COVID-19.
“It’s important now more than ever to get your flu shot,” McKevett said. “As we see an increase in the positivity rate and enter into flu season, every precaution is being taken by the health system to keep the community safe. Do not hesitate to get treatment you need.”