WisBusiness, WisPolitics Health Care Report for Sept. 22

WisBusiness, WisPolitics Health Care Report for Sept. 22

Wisconsin health officials are warning that COVID-19 deaths will continue to increase as the state experiences a surge in cases driven by the delta variant. 

But they noted vaccinations are keeping the number of deaths from rising as sharply as the case numbers have been in recent weeks.

“It is certainly true that as we have more people contracting COVID-19, we should expect that we will see — as we are seeing — more hospitalizations, and we will see an increase in deaths,” said Karen Timberlake, secretary-designee for the Department of Health Services, during a call with reporters today.

She said all of the COVID-19 vaccines are “extremely effective” at preventing severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus. She added that “you are much, much less likely” to be hospitalized due to the virus after being fully vaccinated.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases, noted the seven-day average for confirmed COVID-19 deaths has already seen a significant increase in recent weeks.

“We’re already losing people to COVID-19 because of this current surge,” he said. “People are going to continue to die from this disease until we get low levels of cases.”

The latest seven-day average for new cases reached 2,857 today, the DHS site shows. The cumulative total for cases in the state is 707,074.

And the seven-day average for new confirmed deaths remains at 11 deaths per day, which is nearly double the rate from one month ago. A total of 7,876 people in Wisconsin have died from the virus.

Meanwhile, Timberlake noted hospitals and health systems in the state are “feeling the strain” due to the current surge. The DHS site shows 90.6 percent of hospital beds and 93.3 percent of ICU beds are currently in use. The Wisconsin Hospital Association site shows 1,085 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 332 in intensive care units.

Register now for a related upcoming virtual event: “Lessons from the Ongoing Pandemic” on Oct. 13.

The Madison Metropolitan School District has reported 745 students and staff have quarantined due to COVID-19 since Aug. 18, which is hundreds more than other school districts in south central Wisconsin. 

Meanwhile, schools in Madison have reported 162 positive COVID-19 cases over the same period. The majority of those quarantines and cases have occurred in the past 14 days, according to the MMSD dashboard.

During the DHS media call, Timberlake noted that cases among children in the state are on the rise, especially among kids ages 9-13, most of whom are too young to be vaccinated against the disease.

“What we need to remember is that kids live in families and families live in communities,” she said today. “When kids get sick from COVID-19, they can spread it to others like family members and friends and relatives who may not be vaccinated even if the kids themselves don’t have symptoms or don’t become terribly sick.”

See the dashboard here.

UW Health has announced all of its pediatric care services and locations will be grouped under a new name — UW Health Kids. 

“We’re bringing 100 years of expert care under one umbrella to simplify health care for the families we care for, better represent the scope of our leadership in kids’ health and pave the way for our next 100 years of specialty care, preventive health and primary care for the kids,” said Nikki Stafford, vice president and COO of American Family Children’s Hospital.

The new name covers 25 clinic locations offering specialty pediatric care, 17 primary care locations, 41 specialty care programs, a Level I pediatric trauma center and burn center, two urgent care centers and more. It also covers the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, though the hospital will keep the same name.

Also, doctors and other staff at the pediatric facilities will now include UW Health Kids in their titles.

A Dem lawmaker pressed a GOP bill author on whether legislation that would require Gov. Tony Evers to allocate at least $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to K-12 mental health initiatives would direct money away from existing programs.

Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, D-Milwaukee, said Evers has already allocated all of the state’s ARPA funds, which the governor’s office has confirmed, noting that some ARPA-funded programs have not yet been announced. Brostoff asked Rep. Jon Plumer, R-Lodi, who authored AB 564, if the bill would divert money from pandemic relief funding for hospitals and farmers.

Plumer insisted that there is at least $100 million in unallocated ARPA funds, but said he has not reached out to the governor’s office about the legislation.

“I don’t know about you, but we have a tough time getting ahold of the governor,” Plumer said during yesterday’s Assembly Mental Health Committee hearing.

Britt Cudaback, Evers’ communications director, criticized Republican lawmakers in a tweet for cutting 80 percent of the $90 million Evers proposed for school mental health aid in his 2019-21 and 2021-23 biennial budgets.

“Instead of playing politics, Republicans should use readily available state resources to make the meaningful investments our kids and our schools deserve,” Cudaback said in an emailed statement to WisPolitics.com.

The bill, introduced last week, would direct the guv to allocate the money to the Department of Public Instruction, which would then send grants to school districts, independent charter schools and private schools.

Brostoff proposed a substitute amendment with other Democratic members of the Assembly Mental Health Committee — Reps. Robyn Vining, D-Wauwatosa, Dave Considine, D-Baraboo, and Supreme Moore Omokunde, D-Milwaukee — that would increase DPI funding by $34.5 million over the course of two fiscal years, which would add up to the amount Evers proposed in his 2021-23 budget.

See more at WisPolitics.com.

A recent study designed and co-authored by the UW-Madison School of Education’s associate dean for research identified the “optimal period” for rehabilitation of the hand and arm following a stroke.

“Understanding that there could be an important window for best rehabilitating after a stroke is exciting because it gives us an optimal period for using a range of techniques and therapies to enhance recovery,” said Dorothy Farrar-Edwards, who is also a member of the Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery at the Georgetown University Medical Center.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted by researchers at Georgetown University and MedStar National Rehabilitation Network. In a randomized clinical trial, 72 participants were enrolled within three weeks of experiencing a stroke. Study authors found that the ideal timeframe for rehabilitation is between 60 and 90 days after the event.

In addition to these results, researchers found that participants who had a stroke and underwent “intensive rehabilitation” in the first 30 days after the stroke had some benefit. But rehabilitation conducted more than six months later “demonstrated no major benefits compared to participants who received standard care.”

Farrar-Edwards holds positions with the School of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Departments of Medicine and Neurology in the School of Medicine and Public Health. In a release from the university, she explained that she helped design the study so that participants could choose the activities they wanted to do for their rehabilitation.

“In order to keep people engaged in this very intensive rehabilitation training, you have to find things that they really want to do in order to keep at it,” she said. “That’s where the hand experts and hand therapists on the study team were able to take what I wanted to do theoretically — and turn it into intensive treatment that kept the participants motivated and moving forward.”