State gets medical help from U.S. Army to combat pandemic

    Military medical officer
    A military medical officer checks on a patient connected to a ventilator in an intensive care unit in Baton Route, La., in April 2020. The U.S. Department of Defense is deploying military medical personnel to help ease the strain on healthcare workers from the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel R. Betancourt Jr./Released CC BY 2.0)

    With the state’s healthcare workforce strained by the autumn surge of COVID-19 cases, Wisconsin is enlisting help from the U.S. Army’s medical corps.

    About 45 Army medical personnel will be deployed at Marshfield Clinic facilities in Marshfield, Eau Claire, Beaver Dam and Rice Lake, Gov. Tony Evers announced Wednesday. They will supplement volunteers from the Wisconsin Emergency Assistance Volunteer Registry who have already been assisting the Marshfield Clinic network.

    “Because of the prolonged and intense nature of this crisis, many hospitals are near full capacity and medical staff is exhausted,” said Marshfield Clinic Health System’s chief executive, Dr. Susan Turney, in a statement expressing gratitude for the Department of Defense deployment.

    “Wisconsin’s healthcare system is strained, and our frontline healthcare workers are doing amazing work under extraordinary circumstances,” stated Evers. “Many of them working back-to-back shifts in head-to-toe PPE, putting their health and safety on the line to take care of our vulnerable COVID-19 patients. This additional support is crucial and I thank the Department of Defense for providing these resources to the state.”

    The operation will be overseen by the U.S. Army North (ARNORTH), the Joint Force Land Component Command of U.S. Northern Command in support and coordination with federal and state efforts.

    In another pandemic-related development Wednesday, the state Department of Health Services (DHS) has begun posting information from community wastewater systems on levels of the coronavirus in local sewage. DHS is publishing the data on a new dedicated web dashboard.

    Increased levels of the SARS-CoV-2 virus can show up a week before tests show any increases in a community, according to DHS, giving local public health authorities the possibility of early detecting outbreaks.

    The dashboard data is collected at about 70 points around the state where wastewater from multiple sources in a community combines and flows into a sewer treatment plant. More than half the state’s residents live within areas that are included in the data, and more collection points will be added to the dashboard in the coming months.

    DHS began monitoring the wastewater locations for levels of the virus in June and will continue to do so through June 2021. The wastewater monitoring program is a collaboration that includes DHS, the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.