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Marshfield Clinic sees sharp increase in demand for COVID testing


As seen with previous surges, hospitalizations from COVID lag the onset of cases.

Looking at Department of Health Services data, cases in Wisconsin started increasing at the end of December after a slight plateau.

The state was averaging roughly 3,600 cases a day back then. Less than a month later, we’re averaging more than 14,000 cases a day as of Friday.

A dip in hospitalizations was seen around the first week in January, before they’ve started climbing once more.

Marshfield Clinic Health System Director of Infection Prevention Kate Maguire expects this omicron surge to be not different from previous ones in terms of hospitalizations peaking after cases do.

“What we know about omicron so far is that cases tend to be less severe, but that doesn’t mean they’re less severe for the unvaccinated certainly,” said Maguire. “We also know that with the numbers so large, even if the percentage of folks that’s being hospitalized is smaller, it’s still a much larger baseline number to pull that percentage from.”

Maguire says this may be one of the most challenging times for healthcare during the pandemic.

Right now, she says inpatient care hasn’t drastically increased, but they’re preparing like it could.

What they have seen a sharp increase in demand for is testing.

Maguire says they can still keep up with demand, though turnaround time on results may be slightly delayed in some cases.

Don’t go to the emergency room though to get tested.

“If you’re just coming in and you feel completely fine and would like a COVID test, the emergency room is not for that. There are a lot of resources out there that we want to have people be directed to. One, that could likely serve them faster and in a more timely manor. And two, just not to overwhelm resources that are needed for folks that need that emergency level care,” said Maguire.

Pharmacies that offer testing and communitytesting sites can be found throughout the Northwoods.

More than 40,000 people a day are getting testing for COVID according to the Department of Health Services. Roughly 30% of those tests are coming back positive.

In addition to an increase in testing, Marshfield is also seeing an increase in people that have minor problems or emergency level care needs.

“Even in our small facilities, no facility is kind of left out of the lurch when it comes to COVID. The situation is extremely dynamic, extremely challenging, and our healthcare workers are working very hard to serve our patients and our communities well,” Maguire said.

Maguire also wanted to point out to people that the case, hospitalization, and death numbers don’t tell the full story.

“It’s not just a mortality conversation. It’s a morbidity conversation. People have a change in a change in lifestyle after COVID. Even if you need oxygen at home for two weeks, maybe that’s two weeks you can’t work or go about your normal activities. COVID is not benign disease. It can cause some pretty severe, long-term problems,” she said.

Like other health officials, Maguire recommends people to get vaccinated, wear a mask in public, stay home when you’re sick, and get tested to prevent the spread of the virus.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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