MILWAUKEE — Space is shrinking at local hospitals as COVID-19 patients are taking up more ICU beds. That's now impacting care for non-COVID cases. An effort is launching in Milwaukee County to try and help coronavirus patients from needing to go to the hospital in the first place.
Wednesday morning the Health Equity, Human Needs and Strategic Planning Committee met and approved a resolution written by County Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman. It now heads to the full board. The resolution aims to declare health misinformation a public health crisis and affirm Milwaukee County's commitment to health equity.
Wasserman, who is a practicing physician, said false information about COVID-19 is a big reason why some people are choosing not to be vaccinated. Dr. Wasserman added that he's constantly having conversations with patients — sometimes people he's provided care to for decades — who are refusing to get a vaccine because of the misinformation.
He highlighted one example: "I had a long conversation with her (a patient) on this topic and during this conversation where I'm presenting information to her, and she listens usually, she put her hand up. Right in my face — and she said stop. I don't want to talk about this anymore. I'm right, you're wrong and I don't believe you."
He provided another example of how misinformation can manifest. Dr. Wasserman said he's had conversations with patients who've had a family member die, and although COVID-19 is listed as the cause of death on the death certificate — they've told him they don't believe in COVID-19 and won't get vaccinated.
In Milwaukee County, 57% of residents have had their first dose of the vaccine. That's below the state average of 59%.
On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Hospital Association reported that over 1,600 people are hospitalized right now because of COVID-19. Over 400 of those patients are in the ICU. In Milwaukee, the president of Froedtert Hospital said 33 of their 100+ ICU beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients. Most are unvaccinated.