(Reuters) - Wisconsin will open a field hospital outside of Milwaukee to handle a surge in COVID-19 cases that have overwhelmed hospitals across the state, Governor Tony Evers said on Wednesday.
The hospital will open within the next week after hospitalizations across the state nearly tripled over the last month. There were 853 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, an increase of 71 from the day before, Evers said in a statement.
"Yesterday I learned our health care systems were teetering and that they are on the brink," Evers said during a news conference. "We hoped this day won't come but Wisconsin is in a much different, dire place today."
The 530-bed facility, built last spring, is located at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis, just west of Milwaukee. It will not accept walk-in patients, but will treat patients who are transitioning out of the hospital and require less medical care, Ever said.
A total of 55 of Wisconsin's 72 counties meet the threshold of very high disease activity level, an increase of 10 counties over the last week. Wisconsin's remaining counties are at a high activity level, Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said.
"Every region in Wisconsin has hospitals reporting current and imminent staffing shortages," she said. "Our state is in a danger place."
Wisconsin is one of a handful of U.S. states, including the Dakotas and Montana, that are seeing record hospitalizations. A Reuters tally shows Wisconsin has about 15 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents, three times more than it did in June.
The state is also experiencing a spike in its seven-day average positivity rate by person, which stands at 17% after it was 11% a month ago, state data showed.
"Wearing a mask is simply not enough to flatten the curve. I'm once again calling on Wisconsinites to hunker down," Evers said.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)