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50% of Aspirus hospital admissions with COVID-19 in ICU, most unvaccinated

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WAUSAU, Wisc. (WAOW)--  The area's largest health care system is seeing another wave of COVID 19 cases.

During a news conference Thursday, Aspirus Health officials said at least 80 people are hospitalized with COVID 19 across the entire health system, with nearly half of those patients in the ICU.

"Last year, we had probably about 100+ patients, with 25% of those in the ICU," said Aspirus Wausau Hospital President, Jeff Wicklander. "What we're seeing with this surge is about 50% of the patients who get admitted to the hospital, are in the intensive care unit with COVID today."

The health system noticing a different trend with this surge: A younger population ranging from ages 27 to 82, and patients who are overweight.

"One of the things is, we are seeing those who have a higher obesity as one of the key factors for those that are admitted," said Wicklander. “What we've seen over the last few weeks, is probably 95% of the patients admitted to the hospital are unvaccinated."

While Wicklander said they are staying busy, they do have flexibility when it comes to bed availability.

Aspirus Health Care System acquired Ascension facilities in early August, including 7 hospitals allowing them more options.

"One of the benefits with the new acquisition is we have increased our ICU bed capacity across our footprint," said Wicklander. "We continue to evaluate the needs at each site, so every morning we have our emergency operation call. We look at bed capacity across the region, as well as staffing...We look at if we have to redeploy resources or not, but overall we're doing quite well on our bed capacity."

Wicklander said they continue to hire, but right now are able to meet the needs of their patients with their current staff. He also expressed a level of concern for the prevalence of COVID in Taylor County, being an area with the lowest vaccination rate in the state.

"We have walk-in appointments readily available, we will set up mobile testing if needed and our partnership with Taylor County Public Health is one of the things we continue to focus on," he said.

As of now, no services have been restricted because of the rise in cases, but Wicklander continues to encourage community members and staff to get vaccinated.

“Obviously the goal of a health system is to create the safest environment for those we serve,” Wicklander said. “We know that getting vaccinated is one of those key components...It is extremely important that we continue to have conversations about the importance of vaccinations. What we’re seeing with this current Delta surge, really, the hospitalizations, it’s all related to the unvaccinated."

Wicklander said health officials are also closely monitoring influenza and RSV cases, and have the ability to test for those viruses as well.

Kathryn Halvorsen

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