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As COVID-19 cases climb, hospital gets additional federal support

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge in the region, health officials are getting some help with testing and the caseload.

The Wisconsin National Guard is holding regular testing at the Medford Area Fire Department as part of a state-wide testing initiative. The community-based testing sites across the state are conducted on a regularly scheduled basis throughout October and continuing into the first half of December.

Testing was held at the site on Oct. 16 and is scheduled to take place on Oct. 30, Nov. 13 and Dec. 11. The team has gathered nearly 120 specimens as of Oct. 26.

After collecting the specimens at each site, the test kits are sent to a lab for analysis, and individual citizens receive their results via an email or a phone call from their local health department or a state call center within three-to-seven days following the test.

In addition to the National Guard community testing, Aspirus Medford Hospital is getting help with treating patients.

In a release issued Monday, Aspirus announced that the U.S. Health and Human Services has sent a team of 30 care providers from the Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT-3) team in Alabama to help activate and staff up to 20 beds that can serve step-down, or less acute, patients.

Aspirus and the region have seen a rising number of COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization in recent weeks. Many of these patients remain in the hospital longer than usual.

One reason for these longer stays is that health systems are not able to transition patients to skilled nursing facilities when they no longer need hospital care. Many nursing facilities are currently unable to accept admissions because of internal virus outbreaks and strict state regulations.

This disruption in patient transfers has caused a backlog in hospitals, which makes it difficult to free up beds. Aspirus has addressed this challenge by opening more hospital units and providing additional supportive services to patients in their homes.

As the region’s health care leader, Aspirus has worked with state and federal agencies throughout the pandemic. Through this collaboration, Aspirus has received support and resources to bring online a new inpatient unit at Aspirus Medford Hospital.

This support will allow Aspirus to add beds without reassigning staff from areas they are needed. The DMAT team will be in Medford for 30 days, after which Aspirus will evaluate the ongoing need for the unit.

As of Tuesday, Taylor County was up to 485 total positive cases of COVID-19, with 40 new cases reported. Currently 311 people are in isolation/quarantine and four residents are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19. At Wednesday’s county board session, public health director Patty Krug reported the number of cases was 500, up from a cumulative 250 cases at the beginning of the month.