Coulee Region hospitals working to mitigate recent COVID hospitalization increase

Local News

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – The delta variant is leading to an increase in covid hospitalizations in the Coulee Region.

First News at Nine’s Alex Loroff tells us about the protocols some hospitals are re-implementing to try and slow the new surge.

An increase in COVID-19 cases across the Coulee Region is leading health care providers to take a stronger stance against the virus’ spread.

Gundersen Health System closed down the COVID unit at its La Crosse location back in April, but average weekly cases are starting to go back up.

“After April we were running a fairly low census, typically between two and five patients at any given time in the hospital,” Dr. Joshua Whitson said. “The last couple of weeks we’ve seen a rapid increase, we’ve seen it from two to five now up to about 15-20 on a regular basis.”

As a result, Gundersen has reopened its COVID unit to treat the wide array of patients that are testing positive and showing symptoms.

“We’re seeing both older vaccinated patients coming in with COVID, but relatively mild disease, but also we’re seeing a young, healthy, unvaccinated population coming in with relatively severe disease,” Whitson detailed.

Tomah Health is also seeing an increase in cases, and while it hasn’t lead to the reopening of the hospital’s COVID-19 treatment wing, some restrictions have been put back in place.

“As of June we had lifted a lot of our visitor restrictions,” Physician Assistant Gerald Fushianes said. “We’re putting them back in place based on the numbers and the science, we’re definitely seeing a linear uptick, this is real consistent with a new surge.”

Starting August 11, only two visitors will be allowed per patient in Tomah Health’s Emergency Department and Urgent Care.

Fushianes says the hospital has an emergency operations center that’s continuing to monitor active cases.

More protocols may be brought back if the upward trend continues, but he says the best way to avoid that is by getting the vaccine.

“There’s a lot of chatter about what can the side effects be and that seems to be frightening to some people, and I think that’s a legitimate concern,” Fushinaes said. “We definitely know what COVID can do, so the potential side effects or the minimal side effects that we’re seeing from the current COVID vaccine seem a lesser evil compared to what COVID can do.”

It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by Whitson, who adds staff at Gundersen are running out of steam as the pandemic continues.

“Everybody’s tired, everybody’s worn out, everybody’s a little bit burned out because we’ve been doing this now for almost two years,” Whitson expressed. “Everybody, the nation, the world is probably tired of COVID at this point.”

As of Tuesday, the Wisconsin DHS says 56 percent of La Crosse County residents have been fully vaccinated, while Monroe County’s total is at 39 percent.

In La Crosse, Alex Loroff, First News at Nine.

The CDC has designated both La Crosse and Monroe counties has areas with a substantial level of community transmission.

Neighboring Jackson and Trempealeau counties are designated as having high levels of community spread.

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