GREEN BAY – Health care professionals renewed their plea to residents to take the pandemic seriously as the Brown County death toll from COVID-19 increased by seven since Friday and hospitals are near capacity.
“We know that our capacity is going to be stretched and continue to stretch until that community spread can be decreased,” said Andrea Czarneski, a critical care nurse at Aurora BayCare.
Local health care professionals spoke Wednesday about their concerns and frustration with the people who ignore the virus’ dangers.
Brown County’s death toll stood at 79 people as of Wednesday, according to state Department of Health Services numbers. Fourteen deaths have been reported in the last two weeks.
The number of tests returning positive remained high in the county with a positivity rate at 17.4% on Wednesday, according to DHS. The seven-day average is 16.4%. DHS reported a total of 12,220 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brown County since the pandemic began.
While the number of COVID-19 hospitalized slightly fell since last week’s high of 129, there were still 122 people hospitalized as of Wednesday, according to the county’s dashboard.
The area’s four HSHS hospitals remain at “near capacity,” according to a spokesperson.
Czarneski, of Aurora BayCare, warned that hospitalization levels will not drop soon unless there is stronger compliance with the virus’ safety protocols.
But as misinformation about the virus continues to spread, health care professionals worry Green Bay will stay a hotspot for too long.
‘This shouldn’t have happened’
Every time clinical nurse specialist Jessie Schaumberg walks through Bellin’s COVID-19 ICU, she gets frustrated seeing all the patients fighting to recover from a virus tearing its way through Green Bay.
“You didn’t have to be here and you didn’t have to be here. This shouldn’t have happened,” she said.
Green Bay on Wednesday still has the fourth highest infection rate among the country’s metro areas in a New York Times analysis.
“The isolation, depression, anxiety, and fatigue take a hold of these patients and make this battle so challenging,” Schaumberg said.
Urging people to stop holding large family gatherings, barbecues, weddings, and other events, Dr. Manar Alshahrouri, a Prevea Health pulmonologist and critical care specialist, pleaded with people to take the politics out of the virus.
Multiple family members from one home are getting admitted.
“Everything becomes so politicized that wearing a mask becomes a political statement. It is not,” he said.
In the midst of taking care of COVID-19 patients, taking care of their own families, and educating the public, Alshahouri said it has become like they have to play “whack-a-mole” debunking false claims and urging residents to trust the health care professionals.
As schools start discussing reopenings, Alshahouri said children and families should continue following strictly social distancing and wearing masks because younger people can still transmit the virus.
West De Pere School District sent a letter to parents that it will return to in-person classes on Monday while the De Pere School District said it will keep online learning through at least Nov. 6.
Green Bay’s most recent surge was from high school and college-age residents, Alshahouri said, and one person being safe can make all the difference.
Health care officials urged residents to come together and do what they can to protect the community.
“Wash your hands, wear your mask, and wash your hands again and be kind,” Schaumberg said.