Patients hospitalized due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, have reached a new high for the North Region of Ascension Wisconsin, according to Tom Weaver, Ascension public relations manager.

As of Monday morning, a total of 52 COVID-positive hospitalized patients were reported. That is a jump from 43 hospitalized patients as of Nov. 12.

“The pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation, and we continue to monitor the increase in COVID-19 cases to ensure we are protecting our patients, associates and the communities we are privileged to serve,” Weaver said. “Preparedness efforts are ongoing and involve local, state and national resources as we continue to experience elevated COVID-19 inpatient volumes.” 

Numbers showed that, in the 24 Ascension facilities in the state as of Nov. 16, there were 363 COVID-positive patients hospitalized, including 79 of those patients in the ICU. Fifteen of those hospitalized patients were PUI, or patients under investigation, meaning that a person had been in close contact with someone with confirmed infection or/and may have been to a place where there is an outbreak. PUIs exhibit the symptoms of the disease and are required to be tested and undergo a quarantine or isolation while waiting for the laboratory results. PUI is a term used by health care workers in classifying patients during evaluation and testing in times of infectious disease outbreaks.

In the North Region, 12 of the 52 hospitalized patients were in the ICU, and one PUI was hospitalized. 

Ascension’s North Region encompasses seven hospitals in the northern and central part of Wisconsin including: Ascension Eagle River Hospital, Eagle River; Howard Young Medical Center, part of Ascension, Woodruff; Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital, Rhine­lander; Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital, Tomahawk; Ascension Good Samaritan Hospital, Merrill; Ascension Our Lady of Victory Hospital, Stanley; and Ascension St. Michael’s Hospital, Stevens Point.

In October, there was an average of 27.7 COVID-positive patients per day, and that number jumped to 40.1 in the first 16 days of November, Weaver said. 

Medical transports

Hospitals reaching capacity has been a worry since the pandemic began in March, when Gov. Tony Evers set out to “flatten the curve” with Safer At Home orders and business closures. With the large outbreak of cases in Wisconsin currently, those worries are coming to fruition as patients need to be transported for longer distances to receive care.

“It is not uncommon for us to transport patients to locations across the state and in recent weeks we have seen an increase in requests for longer distance patient transports,” said Ted Ryan, director of Medical Transportation and Patient Access for Ascension Wisconsin. “Our North Region Access Center facilitates patient transfers and works collaboratively with our hospitals and other health care organizations to find the appropriate facility for the patients we serve.” 

Data on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website shows that, in the north central portion of the state which includes Vilas and Oneida counties, there are 1,032 total staffed beds. Of the 1,032 staffed beds, only 106, or about 10%, are currently available. 

Deaths in Vilas, Oneida

The Vilas County Health Department announced on Nov. 13 that two more deaths occurred that were associated with COVID-19, bringing the number of deaths in the county to 10. The individuals were in their 80s and 90s. The county also reported 37 new cases since Nov. 11 and 34 recovered. 

The Oneida County Health Department reported three more deaths on Nov. 13, bringing Oneida’s number of deaths associated with COVID-19 to 22. Activity in the county is listed as “critically high,” with 79 new cases reported Nov. 13 and two more hospitalized. 

Free testing

Free COVID-19 testing is offered by the Oneida County Health Department in collaboration with the National Guard on Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the building behind the Grace Foursquare Church in Rhinelander. 

Test results come back in three to seven days. If results are not received in seven days, call the Test Results Hotline at 1- (866) 419-6988. 

For more information, visit or call the Oneida County Health Department at 715-499-1192. Health officials ask that those looking for a test do not call Grace Four Square Church as they are only the host site for the test, and are not organizing any testing.