'I have to use the word when rather than if': Milwaukee officials warn of surge in coronavirus cases

Posted at 10:11 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 23:17:18-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee health officials are preparing for a surge in coronavirus cases in the coming weeks.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Tuesday during a discussion with the press on COVID-19 efforts in the area, "the other key area of concern right now is when the surge comes, and unfortunately, I have to use the word when rather than if."

Officials have been working with the local hospital systems to find additional critical care beds in facilities. They are doing this ahead of an expected spike in cases and hospitalizations.

"This will help us with planning and distribution of resources to better ensure that we are prepared for what's to come," said Milwaukee County Health Director, Dr. Ben Weston.

This week, projections from The University of Washington show Wisconsin's coronavirus peak will come on April 27th. The study indicates that there wouldn't be a shortage of regular hospital beds in the state, but there would be 207 additional Intensive Care beds needed.

On the projections, Dr. Weston said, "we've been reviewing their data and discussing with their team to better understand the methodology that they used to develop their predictions. Although models such as these are inherently broad and limited in their accuracy and ability to predict the future, they nonetheless serve to provide some level of insight on where we might be headed based on other countries and virus' from the past."

Locally, Weston says the county is putting together its own team of epidemiologists to analyze real-time data and come up with their own projections.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said people need to stay home and continue to practice social distancing as we approach the surge.

"As bad as things are right now, we have to keep them from getting worse. But they are going to scale up. It's going to get worse before it gets better," said Abele.

Mayor Barrett also acknowledged hospital rooms are only part of the problem. Facilities must have the equipment and the healthcare workers to staff them as well.

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