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U.S. Navy troops begin 30-day COVID relief stint as healthcare workers at Green Bay's Bellin Hospital

Posted at 8:25 AM, Dec 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-31 09:25:22-05

GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) — As of Thursday, Chris Woleske says 23 troops traded in their Navy Green for Bellin Blue scrubs.

Members of the U.S. military are now serving as healthcare workers at Green Bay's Bellin Hospital. The aim is to support local efforts against Covid for the next 30 days.

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"This additional space along with the medical personnel from the U.S. Navy will allow us to increase our capacity and welcome more patients," Woleske, Bellin's CEO and president, said.

As part of a joint task force, Captain John Callahan says his team is comprised of nurses, physicians, administrators and respiratory therapists.

The goal is to treat a greater number of patients.

"I've deployed many places: Iraq, overseas, things like that," Callahan said. "And it's nice to deploy to Americans, to help Americans, to be greeted by Americans and to feel the sanctity that we're doing something good."

Since August, nearly 530 active duty troops have assisted at hospitals across the country.

But why Bellin?

Along with a request from the state and the facility's large space.

"Just in the month of November, we had requests to transfer patients here," Woleske said. "Over 300 times, we had to say 'no.'"

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As of Wednesday, per the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the state hit a high this year with 1,715 Covid hospitalizations.

As of Wednesday, per the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the state hit a high this year with 1,715 Covid hospitalizations.

"The other hospitals do need this help," Woleske said. "And they're asking for this same help."

NBC 26 asked if Bellin's Covid vaccine mandate had any impact on the need to bring in help from these troops. Their answer, in part:

"When we had people required to mask in facilities, we saw people actually adhering to that requirement much stronger than it is if people have more of an option to make that choice," Bellin Health Dr. Brad Burmeister said.

If FEMA declares a need past 30 days, Callahan's team could have a longer stay in Green Bay.

"It's neat not to have flack and Kevlar and to be in a place where you're appreciated," he said. "And we're definitely appreciated here."

Coronavirus in Wisconsin

More data on Wisconsin's vaccination progress here.

Find a vaccination site here.

Check out county-by-county coronavirus case numbers here.

More information: COVID-19 on the Wisconsin DHS website

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