Wisconsin officials request federal help for hospitals as number of available ICU beds falls below 40

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WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- Three more cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed in Wisconsin, bringing the total so far to four.

This, when Governor Tony Evers is speaking out about the crisis hospitals face with capacity as the COVID-19 Delta variant continues to take its toll on Wisconsin's health care systems.

Governor Evers said under 40 of the state's more than 1,300 ICU beds were available as of Monday, meaning hospitals have to go on diversion to try and decide who gets help and when.

He said if protecting your neighbors or loved ones isn't a good enough reason to get the vaccine, maybe the state's economic interests are.

"Getting vaccinated is also the key to ensuring our statewide economic recovery. Make sure that continues, from our small businesses, to our workers, to controlling rising costs. All of this depends on our ability to put this pandemic behind us once and for all," said Gov. Evers.

He said the lack of beds means many hospitals have to go on diversion to try and decide who gets help, and many people have to drive far distances to get medical attention.

Another issue is staffing -- state health officials say 270 hospitals across the state have requested staffing support.

Right now, state health officials are working to get them $19-million in funds and support from the American Rescue Plan Act and other federal resources.

They said they plan to take full advantage of anything available.

"We are working with Wisconsin's Department of Military Affairs and Wisconsin Emergency Management and Wisconsin's hospitals to request medical reserve teams from FEMA. These teams will be dispersed around the state and will add important capacity especially in intensive care units," said Wisconsin DHS Secretary-Designee Karen Timberlake.

Evers said during the conference that the science on the vaccine is clear; those unvaccinated are five times more likely to be infected with COVID-19, 11 times more likely to wind up in the hospital, and 15 more times likely to die.

He said as they continue to learn more about the vaccine's effectiveness against the Omicron variant, 99% of spread across the state remains to be the Delta variant.

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