State works to gather needed medical supplies

Study: COVID-19 could peak in state in April
Shamane Mills
Wisconsin Public Radio

MADISON — Wisconsin has received roughly half its share of personal protective equipment allotted from a federal stockpile to ensure doctors, nurses, first responders and others have access to face masks and shields, gowns and gloves during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state submitted a request two weeks ago to get Wisconsin’s share of these supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, which includes, according to a tweet from Gov. Tony Evers’ administration this weekend, 54,709 N95 respirators, 130,326 surgical masks, 24,816 face shields, 20,223 surgical gowns, 104 coveralls and 72,044 gloves.

At the same time, officials are working at the state and regional level to purchase supplies and equipment needed, such as ventilators, to respond to the new coronavirus.

“We’re headed into the worst of this, folks, and the need is only going to get greater,” Evers said Monday during a live video press conference.

How many ventilators and hospital beds Wisconsin and other states will need has been analyzed by various organizations, including the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. By its estimate, Wisconsin might have enough hospital beds overall, but could be short on intensive care unit capacity by almost 400 beds. And the institute predicts the state will need 450 ventilators on the day the pandemic hits its peak.

The peak could come in the next two weeks, according to state officials. It all depends on how well social distancing measures prevent the disease from spreading and if people abide by the measures put in place.

“This story hasn’t been written yet. We don’t know how this is going to go. The parameters in these models tell us the bounds: worst case scenario, best case scenario,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard with the Department of Health Services.

State officials previously predicted 22,000 residents would test positive for COVID-19 by April 8 and might require hospitalization, and 440 to 1,500 people would die from the disease if aggressive action wasn’t taken to keep people from spreading the disease.

Earlier, state health officials pegged the number of intensive care beds at 2,500 and ventilators at 620. Since then, improved reporting by hospitals around the state shows there are 1,215 ventilators.

Earlier this month, GE Healthcare, a medical device maker based in Wauwatosa, announced it was ramping up production of ventilators during the pandemic.

The assumptions by the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation are made based on what measures the state has taken to try to stretch resources by flattening the curve, a visual representation indicating when the maximum number of people are expected to need care. The institute predicts Wisconsin could experience the peak of the outbreak as soon as April 26.

One of the first actions taken by Wisconsin’s governor was to declare a public health emergency March 12 and limit the size of large crowds to fewer than 250 people. A day later schools were shuttered. The next week the size of allowable gatherings was pared down to 50 people, and eventually limited to fewer than 10 under directives designed to keep people from transmitting the virus inadvertently through close contact.

The most recent action was a stay-at-home order and the closure of all non-essential businesses.

Information accurate as of 4:25 p.m. March 30.