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Field hospital at Wisconsin state fairgrounds will open for COVID-19 patients

Wisconsin activates field hospital
Wisconsin activates field hospital as COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a record high 03:13

A field hospital for COVID-19 patients is expected to open at Wisconsin's state fairgrounds next week, alleviating some burden on hospitals in the state as it sees a surge in virus cases. 

Wisconsin has become a coronavirus hot spot over the last month – attributed by health experts to the reopening of colleges and schools, and general fatigue with mask-wearing and socially distancing. 

"We hoped this day wouldn't come, but unfortunately, Wisconsin is in a much different, more dire place today and our healthcare systems are beginning to become overwhelmed by the surge of COVID-19 cases," Governor Tony Evers said Wednesday. 

Evers said the construction of the 530-bed facility was announced back in April as the state was planning for a possible surge in cases. The site – which will take in patients who are not seriously ill but still need care – will now open at the request of hospital systems and due to increased virus hospitalizations.

In just a month, hospitalizations in the state have nearly tripled, with 853 Wisconsinites hospitalized as of Tuesday, according to Evers.

Thousands of new cases are being reported in the state every day. Coronavirus hospitalizations are up more than 70% over the last two weeks. And in some regions of the state, ICUs are at 90% capacity, CBS News' Mola Lenghi reports.

Hospitals across Wisconsin are also experiencing critical staffing shortages "largely due to staff members experiencing infection or exposure to the virus in their communities," Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said in a statement.

An ICU nurse at Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton, Wisconsin, said the field hospital reopening outside Milwaukee will help with bed capacity, but that frontline health care workers are stretched thin. 

"It's scary, and I'm scared of fatigue. I'm scared of losing nurses 'cause they're getting fatigued and sick," said Jennifer Bosetski, who has been working 16-hour shifts.

The state has now seen more than 138,000 total coronavirus cases and over 1,400 deaths due to the virus, according to the COVID Tracking Project. 

It's not just Wisconsin dealing with a surge. Nine states reported a record number of virus hospitalizations on Wednesday. And 31 states are now reporting an increase in the average number of new cases.

The United States has had more than 7.5 million cases since the start of the pandemic and more than 211,000 people have died due to the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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