Advocate Aurora Health hits all-time high in COVID-19 patients across hospital system

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Advocate Aurora Health warned of a worsening situation as it reported an all-time high of COVID-19 hospitalizations across its hospital system in Wisconsin and Illinois.

"The situation is growing more challenging by the day," Advocate Aurora Health's Chief Nursing Officer Mary Beth Kingston said during a media briefing. "Beds are very tight and wait times are long. And really significantly, our team members are under a lot of stress right now."

The health system said there are 1,491 COVID-19 inpatients across its 26 hospitals. That numbers is more than double what it was about 30 days ago and about quadruple the number from 60 days ago. It's also a record since the data was recorded in early 2020.

The surge is causing a strain on resources, primarily staffing. Leaders of the hospital system said they have worked with the governors of Wisconsin and Illinois to help address staffing as well as within their own organization. Last week, they temporarily closed three Milwaukee area urgent care facilities to have staff there help in other areas. But even with those efforts, it is causing a ripple effect across other parts of its health care system, especially for those not needing COVID-19-related care.

"Where it does benefit us to better care for our COVID population, we are creating space and freeing up staff for that higher need population," Chief Medical Group Officer Dr. Jeff Bahr told reporters. "And so that has resulted in a delay, postponement or rescheduling of certain procedures and surgeries."

Advocate Aurora emphasized 92 percent of COVID inpatients currently are unvaccinated, have only received one dose of the vaccine or are due for a booster. Of the 8 percent who are vaccinated and in the hospital, the health system said the majority of those cases are people who are immunocompromised.

"Contrary to what many celebrities or other notable people in the news might say, this is largely a problem of the unvaccinated," Dr. Bahr said.

Doctors said while the omicron variant may not cause as severe illness as the delta variant, the current community spread is so high, the number of cases reaching the hospital can still cause a system like Advocate Aurora to be overwhelmed.

"Those unfortunate patients who make it to the hospital are equally sick as they were a few months ago, with delta and the other variants," Dr. Raul Mendoza, a pulmonologist in Green Bay said. "So there's no distinction."

Health leaders urged people to get their COVID-19 vaccine or booster as soon as possible.

They also said it is important for people to not delay other non-COVD health problems.

More information about Advocate Aurora Health's COVID-19 information can be found HERE

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