Wisconsin activates field hospital as COVID keeps surging

Wisconsin’s governor has announced the opening of a field hospital at the state fairgrounds as a surge in COVID-19 cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals

Wisconsin has become a hot spot for the disease over the last month, ranking third nationwide this week in daily new cases per capita. Health experts have attributed the spike to the reopening of colleges and K-12 schools as well as general fatigue over wearing masks and socially distancing.

The move also came as a state judge was considering a lawsuit seeking to strike down Democratic Evers’ mandate that masks be worn in enclosed public spaces.

Only 16% of the state’s 11,452 hospital beds were available as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the state Department of Health Services. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients had grown to 853, it’s highest during the pandemic according to the COVID Tracking Project, with 216 in intensive care.

Nationwide, about 30,000 coronavirus patients are hospitalized, the COVID Tracking Project reported.

Results of COVID-19 tests on an additional 262 in-patients were pending. The southeastern region of the state had 250 COVID-19 patients, the most of any of the state’s seven hospital regions.

Virus spread is also bad in the northeast. The Green Bay Packers announced this week that no home fans would be admitted to home games until the situation improved, and head coach Matt LaFleur asked area residents to wear masks and practice social distancing.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a 530-bed field hospital on the state fairgrounds in West Allis just outside Milwaukee in April at the request of Evers’ administration. Local leaders had warned about the possibility of area hospitals being overwhelmed, but hospitalizations never reached the point where the hospital was needed, until now.

The hospital will be staffed by volunteers, state workers and National Guard members, DOA officials said. Patients will not be allowed to have visitors.

Several other states moved to set up field hospitals in the early stages of the pandemic — at great expense — only to find that they got little to no use, and many were shut down.