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'This is not a hoax': Health workers frustrated with patients refusing to believe COVID-19 is real

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Posted at 9:45 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 13:12:54-05

FOND DU LAC  — More than 2,200 people are hospitalized throughout Wisconsin with COVID-19, the latest data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows.

Hospitals across the state continue to feel the impact.

"It's busy, seeing lots of COVID patients every day. This is not a hoax," said Dr. Nathan Larsen, the Emergency Department Medical Director at St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac. "It's a challenge, taking care of regular patients with heart attacks and car crashes and everything else, and then add COVID to the top of it, we're almost to the breaking point."

Dr. Larsen said they sent their first patient to the Alternate Care Facility at State Fair Park Monday. He said his ICU is full. If cases continue to rise in Wisconsin and throughout the country, he said he worries about the winter months.

"If something doesn’t change, there will be rationing of care I think throughout this country, including in Wisconsin," Dr. Larsen said.

In addition to capacity issues, he's facing another challenge—patients refusing to believe they have COVID-`19.

"I've heard, 'It will go away after the election,' I've heard, 'I have O-negative type blood and my blood type can’t get COVID,' yet they're being admitted to the ICU," Dr. Larsen said.

He and other health workers say they believe people have stopped listening to them, and some say it's been tough to see people still not social distancing.

"This is a community problem to solve, it’s not solely a health care problem or a hospital problem, or a political problem, it’s a community concern that we all need to take on together," said Ken Nelson, the Chief Nursing Officer at HSHS St. Vincent Hospital and HSHS St. Mary's Hospital Medical Center in Green Bay.

They and other health workers are crying out to the community to please wear masks and stay home as much as possible. Otherwise, some warn if you do get sick, the care you need might not be readily available.

"If you come to the emergency department right now and you have pneumonia and you’re not hypoxic, most of the time you're going to be sent home. Come back when things get worse, because one, there's no beds, or very few beds, and the second, is there's not a lot of treatments for this," Dr. Larsen said.

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