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Registered nurse Alex Finch, right, monitors a patient with COVID-19 in the ICU at St. Mary's Hospital on Sept. 7, 2021. 

Dane County continues to break records for COVID-19 hospitalizations, reaching an all-time high Tuesday with 197 hospitalizations, according to Public Health Madison & Dane County Director Janel Heinrich.

"Yesterday, we hit an all-time high for the number of people hospitalized in Dane County for COVID — 184. Today that number is even higher at 197," Heinrich said in a media briefing Tuesday. "The high levels of hospitalization… creates strain on our system.”

These most recent numbers surpass the previous high from last year’s peak in November 2020, which was 179 hospitalizations in a day.

Heinrich called the current surge “a perfect storm," thanks to the easily spread Omicron variant and post-holiday travel infections. In the past two weeks, 3.1% of the county has tested positive for COVID. That’s up 1% from just last Thursday, Jan. 6. 

The county reported 1,881 new COVID cases Tuesday, according to PHMDC data. The current seven-day average has seen a major increase from last week, hitting a rate of 1,249 people being diagnosed with COVID a day. Early last week the seven-day average was 870. 

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi called on the community to help with the strain on hospitals by staying home when sick, masking up and getting vaccinated.

“Our health care heroes need our help — not just in words, but in our actions. They need us because they're exhausted. They've been pushed beyond their limits but they continue to care for all of us in our times of need," Parisi said. 

In recent months, Madison hospitals have received sometimes one-third of their ICU patients from other regions of the state. While Heinrich didn’t have the exact number of patients getting transferred from other areas of the state or even country, she said on Tuesday there are “probably more folks from Dane County in our Dane County hospitals right now than we've seen more recently."

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway emphasized the importance of staying home if people have any COVID symptoms. She called on employers in the area to allow for employees to work remotely when feeling ill or make that option possible if it isn’t already. 

"More important than anything else is making sure you are up to date on your COVID vaccine," Rhodes-Conway said.

PHMDC has taken several steps in January to increase testing capacities, including opening a new testing clinic at the Alliant Energy Center Monday, and doing more outreach to get vaccines to communities with barriers in access.

The city of Madison has set up mobile vaccination clinics at businesses across the county and plans to open even more, Rhodes-Conway said, with at least 15 but often more mobile clinics open each week. 

Last week, public health staff administered more than 500 doses of vaccine at mobile clinics in just five days, according to Rhodes-Conway. Called pop-up clinics on PHMDC’s website, locations are scattered across Madison, into Verona, Middleton, Waunakee and more.

"Our road back to normal has been detoured. The roller coaster that this pandemic is continues and understandably we're all tired of it. We're all frustrated and just want it to be done," Parisi said.

But he asked his constituents across the county to remain vigilant and to take the steps to reduce the burden on local hospitals, like wearing well-fitted masks. 

To help, the county is expected to receive approximately 100,000 masks Friday that will be available to those in need in the community. 

The Boys & Girls Club of Dane County has also set up a GoFundMe to raise money for 200,000 N95 and KN95 masks for students, teachers and other Madison Metropolitan School District staff. The fund has already raised $20,135 after MMSD buildings recently reopened for in-person instruction Monday after an extended winter break and a brief return to virtual learning.

The closure was in response to a large increase in local cases of COVID, and the spike having a “significant impact on MMSD staffing levels at many schools and severely (limiting) the availability of testing resources and personal protective equipment,” the district said in a news release.

With schools and hospitals alike struggling with the overwhelming increase in COVID cases, Parisi requested the community step up and help.

"Let's show our health care workers that we hear their pleas for help, that we will be part of the solution," Parisi said. 

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