WEST ALLIS, Wis. - Gov. Tony Evers and state health officials on Thursday, Oct. 22 doubled-down on their message to Wisconsinites to avoid all gatherings until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.
Wisconsin remains ranked third in the U.S. for the most coronavirus cases over the past week, as of Thursday, according to the CDC.
One patient remains at the 530-bed alternate care facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park -- the facility's first patient, who was admitted on Wednesday, Oct. 21.
Despite that patient's admittance, health officials say hospitalizations across Wisconsin have decreased 22% statewide and 50% in the northeast since last week when the facility opened.
Medical staff at the COVID-19 alternate care facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park
"Our hospitals are working to optimize their staffing resources and keep patients as close to the community as possible," said Deb Standridge, CEO of the facility.
So, why haven't more patients been admitted to the alternate care facility?
Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said hospitals are trying to keep patients close to the communities that they are from, reiterating that the site serves as an insurance policy -- not Wisconsin's new norm.
"We should celebrate every patient that doesn't come to the alternate care facility," said Palm. "It means folks are doing work to mitigate the spread."
COVID-19 alternate care facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park
Still, Gov. Tony Evers said the state's COVID-19 numbers paint a grim picture. On Thursday, he spoke directly to the 20-some percent of Wisconsin residents who say they are not complying with the state's mask mandate and 25% indoor space capacity limit.
"So think of 3,500, that's 35 people who won't be here," Gov. Evers said, citing the roughly 1% death rate and Thursday's approximate case increase. "Come on folks."
Doctors say that the majority of the record, new cases and subsequent hospitalizations that are being reported almost daily are originating from people who are asymptomatic and then, unknowingly, spread the virus to others who ultimately become ill.
"We need to presume that the virus is everywhere," said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases. "It could have been dramatically worse, 10, 20 times worse. The only reason it's not is because we've done the things to mitigate the spread, wearing masks and limiting contact with others."
While the rate of hospitalization over the past week decreased, the Wisconsin Hospital Association on Thursday reported a record 1,230 people are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 complications in the state, up from 1,190 the previous day.
Officials continue to urge people to wear masks and limit interactions to people within your household.