MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Wisconsin National Guard troops will help fill staffing shortages at skilled nursing facilities over the next few weeks in hopes of opening more beds and relieving pressure on overwhelmed hospitals of COVID-19 patients, Gov. Tony Evers announced Thursday.
The governor said the troops were being trained as certified nursing assistants. About 50 soldiers have been deployed to six nursing homes over the past week. Another 80 soldiers who began training this week will deploy at the end of January. And a group of 80 troops will begin training in early February and deploy by the end of this month.
The additional staff is expected to allow nursing facilities to open hundreds of additional beds that can accommodate recovering patients. That in turn should free up hospital capacity, according to the Evers administration.
A surge of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks has left hospitals facing staffing shortages amid a deluge of patients. The seven-day average of daily cases stood at 9,915 cases on Thursday, nearly double from two weeks ago.
The outbreak has put a record 488 people in intensive care units. Nearly 2,278 people were hospitalized Thursday, an increase of 276 patients over the past week, according to the Evers administration.
The administration noted that as of Wednesday, it had helped recruit 626 nurses and other healthcare workers to support 76 healthcare facilities in the state.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the state Department of Corrections announced it was suspending all in-person visits to its facilities, except for religious volunteers, emergency workers and those working on necessary screenings of facilities. These people will have to take a rapid COVID-19 test at the entrance to the buildings from Tuesday and will have to wear masks and social distance.
This story has been updated to correct that troops will be staffing skilled nursing facilities, not hospitals.