GREEN BAY – Over 200 doctors are pleading with residents and elected officials to take steps to contain the coronavirus as cases explode across Brown County and overwhelm local hospitals.
In a letter Friday, Prevea Health CEO Ashok Rai said health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic are troubled about the recent surge and “tripling of COVID-19-related hospitalizations” since the beginning of September. The letter, provided to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, was signed by 250 physicians in the area.
“To say that providing care to these patients is severely straining our local hospitals, health care workers and health systems is a drastic understatement,” Rai wrote. “There is no other way to say it: we are overwhelmed.”
The letter came as Brown County surpassed the grim milestone of 10,000 cases since the pandemic’s onset, including 66 people who have died. At 10,022 cases, the virus has infected nearly 4% of the county’s population.
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According to data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, roughly 43% of tests in Brown County in the past seven days have come back positive, while the county’s two-week positivity rate sits at 35%. Green Bay had the third-highest infection rate in the country as of Friday, a New York Times analysis shows.
Faced with staggering numbers, Rai and other local doctors asked people to take measures known to curb the virus’ spread: Keep a distance from others, wear masks, avoid large gatherings and wash your hands. It’s also important for people to stay home when sick and quarantine for 14 days if exposed to someone with COVID-19, the letter states.
“This is not rocket science, but this IS real science that has been proven in communities throughout the world as they have learned how to successfully conduct business and life in the presence of COVID-19,” Rai wrote.
Local hospitals have been reluctant to release detailed capacity numbers in recent days, but health care leaders continue to sound the alarm as their facilities become increasingly overwhelmed. According to a Brown County dashboard, 89 county residents were hospitalized on Friday due to COVID-19.
A Prevea spokeswoman said Friday that St. Vincent Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center are “near capacity.” As of Thursday evening, 11 patients were being treated for COVID-19 at Aurora BayCare.
The letter implores people to “promote, facilitate and encourage” those behaviors but does not call on elected officials to enact stricter measures.
“The ongoing reckless disregard of these basic public health measures is threatening the viability of our local businesses, education of our children, and provision of medical care to everyone in Northeast Wisconsin,” Rai wrote.
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