By Shereen Siewert

Officials at Aspirus in Wausau are urging the public to adhere to mask-wearing and social distancing practices to help address the sharp increase in coronavirus infections in the region, citing a record number of COVID-19 inpatients at the hospital.

Some of the 27 COVID-19 patients now in beds throughout the Aspirus system are fighting for their lives, said Dr. Ryan Andrews, Aspirus Chief Medical Officer. There are additional patients that are “COVID-presumptive” as well, though the number of patients being treated in that category was not immediately clear.

Jesse Tischer, interim president at Aspirus, called the current spikes across the state and the nation “alarming.”

“If our trend continues the way it is, we’re going to need to take additional actions throughout the region,” Tischer said. “Everything we can do to slow the spread, stop the spread, is where we need to be right now.”

Tischer said one of Aspirus’s intensive care units has eight beds and is dedicated exclusively to COVID-19 cases. A second flexible unit can take up to 20 COVID-19 cases. At 20 patients, a third unit with another 20 beds opens.

Patients currently being treated at Aspirus range in age from mid-50s to mid-70s, Tischer said, adding that well over 50 percent of recent positive cases statewide are people younger than 40. Many patients who fall into that category are relatively healthy people who do not require lifesaving measures.

Dr. Andrews said that patients who are being treated are showing a wide range of symptoms and need extra oxygen, fluids or IV treatments as lifesaving measures.

“It’s important to remember that COVID is a virus,” Andrews said. “It will work its way through our population. And people in this country are dying at every age.”