‘I am concerned’: Rock County preparing for surge in COVID hospitalizations this fall

JANESVILLE, Wis. – COVID cases are once again surging in Rock County after staying relatively dormant for the last eight weeks. With active cases quintupling since July 6 and hospitalizations once again climbing, those who serve the area are preparing for the worst.

To be honest with you, we’ve never shifted,” said Janesville Fire Chief Ernie Rhodes, who serves as the head of the city’s emergency response team. “We’ve always been in a position to watch the virus.”

As of Friday, there were 289 active cases of the Coronavirus in Rock County, with Thursday marking the first day of 50 new cases in nearly three months.

I anticipated the mutation,” Rhodes said. “So we’ve never gotten comfortable with COVID. This surge, or this enhanced transmission of the COVID-19 Delta Variant is not a surprise.”

Like Rhodes, hospital systems in the area are anticipating the worst. 

We’re already kind of stressed a little bit with the current patients that we have,” said Kathi Glenn, VP of Patient Services with SSM Health in Janesville. “Then when you add the Delta variant, our ability to provide great care to all of our patients is going to be really stressed.”

At the peak of the COVID surge last fall, 74 people in Rock County were receiving treatment for COVID-19 in Rock County hospitals. Glenn says with the severity of the Delta variant, that could be surpassed this fall. 

Absolutely, that’s definitely a possibility,” Glenn said. “The Delta variant is so much more contagious than the original variant that started a year ago.”

Towards the start of the pandemic, Rhodes and the emergency response team purchased two overflow structures in case hospitals lost space for beds. While they weren’t needed in 2020, Rhodes says the city is prepared for what’s to come.

I’m glad we’ve got them,” Rhodes said. “Because today you see this Delta variant, then you read about the other variants that could be coming, and you hear about the breakthrough on the vaccinations, we have to be prepared. When the overflow happens on hospitals, as a community, that’s our problem.”

Currently, 51 percent of Rock County residents are vaccinated – slightly less than the state average.

I don’t know how we will *not* see admissions with sicker patients with COVID,” Glenn said.