'Nothing magical about this math': Wisconsin could run out of ICU beds in 2 weeks

If the number of positive COVID-19 cases remains steady, Wisconsin is on track to run out of intensive care unit beds and the people to staff them in as little as two weeks, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin recorded 5,200 new positive COVID-19 cases Oct. 28. The same day, the state recorded that just 187 of its 1,469 ICU beds were available. About 319 of the ICU beds were occupied by patients with COVID-19.

On Oct. 29, a record 1,439 people were hospitalized with the virus, including 339 patients in ICU beds, according to the report. 

If the number of new positive cases doesn't drop, the number of COVID-19 patients needing hospitalization could double in two to six weeks, Bill Melms, MD, CMO of Marshfield (Wis.) Clinic Health System, told the Journal. 

"There is nothing magical about this math," Dr. Melms told the Journal. "Every single positive increases the probability or likelihood of having another patient who is hospitalized."

In response to the surge in hospitalizations, health systems are working to build capacity, line up temporary nurses to staff the beds and pick up shifts for exhausted nurses.  

Hospitals said that adding bed capacity isn't the issue, it is having enough staff for the added beds. 

"That’s our limiting factor," Dr. Melms told the Journal. "You give me infinite staff, I would feel a whole lot better about the next four to six to eight weeks."

The high infection rate also brings up a greater risk for employees to be exposed to the virus. 

Marshfield Clinic has about 10 percent of its employees out due to having COVID-19 or being exposed to someone with COVID-19.

More articles on patient flow:
10 hospitals closing departments, ending services
Ballad Health to postpone elective procedures at some Tennessee hospitals
Texas to set up makeshift hospital amid COVID-19 surge

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