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WI Gov. Evers issues new mask order as hospitals near capacity

According to officials, more than a third of all hospitals across the state are operating at full capacity, with 32% of ICU beds being used for COVID-19 patients.

MADISON, Wis. — In response to the surging COVID-19 case numbers and hospitals being overwhelmed with incoming patients, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a new emergency order and public face covering order on Friday for all residents over the age of five to wear coverings in all indoor settings, with some exceptions.

According to the new emergency order, anyone in an enclosed space that isn't their own residence should wear face coverings and continue to social distance to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. The order will expire after 60 days.

Some of the exceptions include:

  • While eating or drinking
  • While sleeping
  • While swimming or on duty as a lifeguard
  • While working if a face covering would be a hazard to themselves

For more information— and a complete list of exceptions — check out the full emergency order.

“Wisconsin hospitals are overwhelmed and facing staffing shortages,” said Gov. Evers in a press release. “We continue to see record-setting days of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin. We need everyone to stay home and wear a mask if you have to go out. We need your help to stop the spread of this virus, and we all have to do this together.”

According to Wisconsin health officials, every Healthcare Emergency Readiness Coalition Region's intensive care units are often full and are no longer able to admit new patients. More than a third of all hospitals across the state are operating at full capacity, with 21% of medical surgical beds and 32% of ICU beds being used for COVID-19 patients.

Credit: Wisconsin Department of Health Services

In addition to a shortage of hospital beds, hospitals are also facing widespread staffing shortages. Over one-third of Wisconsin hospitals are reporting "critical" staff shortages with 42% of hospitals expected to reach "critical" shortages within a week. According to the release, multiple hospital systems have requested and are receiving assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“The current surge in cases are overwhelming our hospitals,” said Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm in a release. “We know hospitalizations are a lagging indicator, which means we will need even more capacity for our hospitals in the coming weeks with our current cases. We need every Wisconsinite to take this seriously to stay home. That is why it is imperative we take action to curb transmission now – to protect residents of Wisconsin in every corner of the state.”

Wisconsin reported 78 COVID-19 related deaths on Friday, the third time in a four-day span the state has had 75 or more single-day deaths. Health officials say a total of 15,526 people have been hospitalized from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.