Aspirus cautiously optimistic about recent COVID-19 data

Top government health officials have expressed optimism about recent COVID-19 data.

Data from around the country and the southern part of Wisconsin point to encouraging news about the omicron variant wave.

Hospitalizations are trending down as well as positivity numbers in the Badger State. However, indicators within the Aspirus system are not yet as encouraging.

“We’re cautiously optimistic about the omicron variant and what we’re seeing compared to delta,” said Jeff Wicklander, Aspirus Senior Vice President and President of Aspirus Wausau Hospital. “Yes, we have a lot of patients that are coming to be tested [and] in our emergency departments and even some are hospitalized, however the level of ICU acuity is less.”

There are 139 (86 unvaccinated) patients hospitalized across the Aspirus system today. That number is on par with the highest level of COVID-19 patients in the Aspirus system throughout the pandemic.

The number of COVID-19 patients across Aspirus requiring ICU-level care, however, is down to 30 today from a January peak of 43 just two weeks ago. Only five patients are on a BiPap machine today compared to earlier in the month where it was common to have more than 20 patients requiring BiPap assistance.

The Aspirus Reference Lab reported a 3 percent decrease in COVID-19 positivity rates among tests processed between January 16-22 compared to the previous week that produced a pandemic-high positivity rate of 39.3 percent. These numbers have been good indicators for future hospitalizations throughout the pandemic.

“Typically, when we have a big increase in our community positivity rates, for the next two weeks we’ll see an increase in hospitalizations,” Wicklander said. “However, we’re really not seeing that with omicron.”

Aspirus’ southern-most hospital, Aspirus Divine Savior in Portage, is experiencing a steep decrease in average length of stay for COVID-19 patients.

“We’ve seen a lot of the surge come up from the south up to the north and as an example with Divine Savior, their ICU length of stay has gone from about eight-and-a-half days down to three days,” Wicklander said.

Southern parts of the state such as Dane County have higher vaccination rates compared to most northern parts of the state.

“We’ve known from the very beginning that vaccinations provide the safest environment for each and every community member, for our patients and for our staff,” Wicklander said. “We also recommend those who are vaccinated greater than six months to get a booster. It’s very effective against omicron.”

COVID-19 vaccinations are available through Aspirus Health and numerous pharmacies in our communities. Boosters or initial vaccination series can be scheduled through Aspirus using the MyAspirus online patient portal or mobile app. Appointments are also available by calling the Aspirus COVID-19 Call Center at 844.568.0701 or 715.843.1454. The Call Center has been experiencing high call volumes, so community members are encouraged to use MyAspirus for convenience.

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