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‘Please Get Vaccinated’: Aspirus System Seeing ICU COVID Patients in Numbers Similar to Fall Surge

Wisconsin National Guard


Last fall, during the previous COVID surge, the Aspirus system peaked at 130 people hospitalized with COVID-19, with 38 of being the highest number of people in the ICU at any given time. Keep in mind, this was before Aspirus took on Ascension hospitals.

Right now, there’s roughly 60 patients in hospitals within the Aspirus System that are COVID positive.

But Aspirus is seeing the same level of ICU patients as last fall, even with fewer overall patients.

Aspirus Health Senior Vice President and Aspirus Wausau Hospital President Jeff Wicklander said they’re seeing a higher prevalence of patients in the ICU due to the Delta variant.

“We continue to see majority of the patients admitted to the hospital are unvaccinated. We see patients with co-morbidities that are impacting severity of the response and their ability to fight this virus,” said Wicklander.

Credit Wisconsin DHS

According to data from the Department of Health Services, all hospitals in the North Central Region have seen COVID hospitalizations grow by 21% in the last two weeks.

Wicklander said the Aspirus system is much better prepared for this surge.

Personal Protective Equipment is no longer in short supply, and advances in treatment is helping keep some high-risk patients out of the hospital.

Patients that fall into the high-risk groups can get a dual infusion therapy if they test positive but aren’t at the hospitalization stage yet.

“We have seen that patients that get that therapy have an admission rate of just under 3%, whereas that high-risk population that were unvaccinated and without that infusion, was probably more in the 20s [percent]. So that’s one of the big things we’ve seen,” Wicklander said.

Still, Wicklander calls this current surge frustrating.

“We have a dedicated bunch of caregivers that are very much there for our patients and our communities. I think there’s a level of frustration in the organization. We think some of this was preventable,” he said.

Wicklander is referring to the COVID-19 vaccines currently available.

Credit Wisconsin DHS

DHS has data for vaccinated versus unvaccinated COVID cases for the month of July.

Per 100,000 people vaccinated in Wisconsin, fewer than 5 have been hospitalized due to COVID and .1 have died.

Compared to people who aren’t fully vaccinated, more than 18 of every 100,000 is hospitalized and one person dies from the virus.

“Please get vaccinated. We know the vaccines are safe.  They’re effective against this Delta variant,” said Wicklander. “The literature is out there that they reduce the risk of hospitalizations significantly. When you’re vaccinated, if you even do get the Delta variant, your symptoms are significantly less than unvaccinated.”

Wicklander said they’ve been working with people, including employees within the system, to educate them on the vaccines.

“As we’ve done that, we have seen people then become vaccinated. They either had misinformation or we were able to break down some of the myths associated with that,” he said.

You can use vaccine.govto schedule a vaccine appointment or visit WXPR’s COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Page.

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