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Wisconsin Spotlight | May 13, 2020

MADISON — While Gov. Tony Evers’ Department of Health Services broadly tracks COVID-19 cases, arguably the most critical numbers lie in the sickest of the sick.

As of Tuesday, there were 333 total COVID-19 patients in Wisconsin’s hospitals, 110 of them in intensive care units, according to Department of Health Services’ Hospital Capabilities page. Total coronavirus hospitalizations represent 0.005 percent of Wisconsin’s 5.85 million residents, with 0.001 percent of the state’s population in critical care.

As of Tuesday, there were 418 COVID-19-related deaths in Wisconsin, up nine from the previous day. DHS has recorded 10,611 cases thus far, at least 60 percent of those cases did not involve hospitalization.

The idea early on was to “flatten the curve” of the pandemic so that hospitals and health care providers wouldn’t be swamped. It is safe to say Wisconsin’s medical resources, at present, are not swamped.

Of the 11,524 total hospital beds statewide, there were 3,646 beds immediately available.

In fact, hospitals and clinics have been laying off and issuing furloughs to nurses and other health care professionals, even on COVID-19 care wings.

As state Sen. Alberta Darling noted, Five of six indicators “required” to open up Wisconsin laid out by the governor are now “green.”

“It’s time to reopen our economy in a safe and smart way,” the River Hills Republican said Tuesday in a press release. “We need to be able to make decisions based on what we are comfortable with. time to address the economic damage being dealt to our working families and safely open Wisconsin now.”

Meanwhile, the focus on the coronavirus to the exclusion of other disease is having a serious impact on public health, critics of stay-at-home orders and members of the health care community say.

“My office is receiving daily contact from constituents who fear for their lives or suffer great pain. Not because of the virus, but because their biopsy, joint replacement, or a myriad of other significant health issues, have been labeled as ‘non-essential,” state Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) wrote this week. “Many have waited weeks just to find out if they have cancer, and, if so, when to begin treatment.”

In March and April, Milwaukee County posted a 70 percent increase in EMS responses to mental health concerns. The county saw a 54 percent increase in drug overdose responses, an increase in domestic abuse, and an 80 percent increase in responses to suicide attempts compared to the same period last year.

As Hutton notes, there are many numbers to consider when addressing public policy, even in a pandemic.

“The longer we continue the shutdown, the greater the collateral damage will be across metrics of societal health and welfare,” the lawmaker wrote.

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