Medical leaders prepare for a long-fight with COVID-19

Posted at 7:15 PM, Mar 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-21 20:28:32-04

Local medical experts are preparing for a prolonged fight as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout Southeastern Wisconsin.

There are nearly 295 confirmed positive cases of the novel coronavirus in the State of Wisconsin.

The impact of the virus was felt throughout a number of industries this past week after Governor Tony Evers ordered bars and restaurants to close. Several schools across the state have transitioned to online learning to finish the year.

"I think in the short period of time people have come a long way and understand this is a serious issue," said Dr. Ben Weston, Medical Director for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

“It’s challenging and I think it's going to become more challenging as we see more COVID-19 and how it affects our institutions," Weston said.

Weston said that his office is working to get personal protective equipment into the hands of local nurses and doctors. Supplies that they desperately need.

"The masks the gloves. The gowns. We're working on better resourcing that," Weston said. “It’s not something we’re used to seeing when every hospital literally in the world is in the same situation.”

Weston says cooperation with local partners will be key in making sure institutions will have what they need to handle COVID-19 long-term.

"We're putting together the infrastructure that we need to get an understanding of what going on now, but also an infrastructure that can last weeks, months and as long as it needs," Weston said.

Mark Kaufman, Chief Medical Officer for the Wisconsin Hospital Association said one of the biggest challenges will be keeping the hospital workforce healthy.

“This is a little bit more intimidating for a number of reasons. We don’t really know how big it will play out in Wisconsin in terms of how big the surge will be," Kaufman said. “The infection rate for healthcare workers has been about 10 percent and if there really a wave of patients, that is one of the biggest concerns. Having a healthcare workforce available.”

Kaufman said hospitals are working to find ways to endure workforce numbers are sufficient at such an unprecedented time.

“We are looking into retired physicians, nurses extensions of licenses. Expediting cross state licensing for people who want to come and join the workforce," Kaufman said.

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