BELOIT—The VetsRoll trip to Washington, D.C. planned for this year has been cancelled due to the spike in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, according to VetsRoll co-founder Mark Finnegan.
VetsRoll took its last trip to Washington when war veterans were able to visit various war memorials and sites in 2019. Since then the trips have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finnegan called the decision to cancel this year’s trip “gut-wrenching,” but cited the VetsRoll medical team’s professional decision in postponing the trip. He added that taking the trip this year would be “irresponsible” to subject the group’s veterans, staff and volunteers to potential COVID-19 exposure.
“An outbreak of a communicable disease when hospitals are pushing 100% of capacity would be something that could have dire consequences,” Finnegan said. “We would not have the ability to properly quarantine and when so many of our guests have critical respiratory needs, we must place their safety as our top priority.”
VetsRoll currently has 89 veterans on its waiting list between the ages of 85 and 106 as of May 1, Finnegan said.
The trip was originally set for May 21 through May 24, but Finnegan said a host of variables, from medical personnel availability to hotel and hospital availability, were too great of unknowns to overcome.
Due to the cancellation, VetsRoll has postponed this year’s trip until May 21 through May 24 of 2023.
“We ask for your compassion and understanding for why we have regrettably made this decision four-plus months from our trip dates, but we have to allow time for our hotel, restaurant and transportation partners to be able to make changes on their parts. This is not a political decision. It is simply the right decision,” Finnegan said.
Locally, COVID-19 continues to surge in the Stateline Area due to the Omicron variant. On Thursday, 207 new cases and one additional virus-related death were reported in Rock County, bringing the countywide total to 28,517 cases and 261 deaths. Hospitalizations in Rock County also reached a pandemic-high on Thursday as 75 patients were admitted for inpatient care at Rock County hospitals, according to the Rock County Public Health Department. The health department reported at 4,421 active cases were reported as of Thursday.
The spike in hospitalizations and active cases comes as Rock County Epidemiologist Nick Zupan said current and recent data suggests that there are more people currently infected with COVID-19 than the number of PCR confirmed tests that are reported in the official health department data tracking, based on monitoring of the wastewater treatment facility in Janesville.
“The wastewater testing can give us an idea of the trends that are occurring beyond what is reported to the health department in PCR testing,” Zupan said. ““Although it’s difficult to estimate how many more people have COVID-19 based on the wastewater data, we are seeing much higher levels now than any other time in the pandemic.”
In the last seven days, Rock County has reported 2,678 new cases as the test positivity rate over that time is 32.53%, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows.
In Winnebago County, Illinois, 5,650 new cases have been reported over the last seven days as the county has a test positivity rate 23.27%, the CDC reports.