HSHS COVID hospitalizations hit record high

Most COVID inpatients are not vaccinated, officials say
Warren Bluhm

Hospital Sisters Health System hospitals in Wisconsin and Illinois experienced a grim record Jan. 7.

The HSHS health care system that includes St. Clare Memorial Hospital in Oconto Falls recorded 303 COVID-19 inpatients across the system’s 17 hospitals, breaking the previous high of 293 in November 2020.

Dr. Marc Shelton, senior vice president and chief clinical officer for the system, said during a Zoom news conference that only 20% of the COVID patients had been fully or partially vaccinated.

“It’s uncommon for people who have been totally vaccinated, and particularly boosted, to get sick enough to be hospitalized or need a ventilator or die,” Shelton said, while admitting the vaccines do not eliminate the threat of illness. “It tends to attenuate the effect of the COVID variant, even omicron, but it is not effective 100% in all people.”

Shelton compared getting the shot with wearing seat belts in a car: People still die in vehicular crashes, but seat belts reduce the risk of injury or death.

Ken Nelson, chief nursing executive for HSHS Wisconsin, also urged people to get the vaccine.

“The data here is loud and clear: A significant majority of our hospitalized patients with COVID-19 are unvaccinated,” Nelson said. “Those who are unvaccinated and hospitalized with us are spending nearly double the amount of time in the hospital than someone who on the rare occasion is hospitalized who was vaccinated.”

The hospital officials stressed that people should not go to an emergency room unless they are experiencing an actual health emergency. They discouraged people from using the ER to get tested for COVID.