Wisconsin admitted its first patient to a field hospital in the Wisconsin State Fair Park, near Milwaukee, on Wednesday, the same day that the state reported a record 48 deaths from the novel coronavirus.
The field hospital, a 530-bed facility which opened last week, is meant to relieve pressure on local hospitals, which have been rapidly filling with COVID-19 patients as Wisconsin's outbreak worsens. In some areas, 90% of ICU beds are full, according to the governor's office.
"We are thankful to have this facility available to Wisconsinites and our hospitals, but also saddened that this is where Wisconsin is at today," Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement.
"Folks, please stay home. Help us protect our communities from this highly-contagious virus and avoid further strain on our hospitals."
In Wisconsin, COVID-19-testing positivity rates, daily new cases and deaths are all climbing, according to ABC News' analysis of the COVID Tracking Project's data.
Wisconsin reported 3,413 new infections Thursday, according to the state health department, compared with 4,205 new infections Wednesday and a record 4,951 new cases on Tuesday.
In addition to rising case counts, an average of 27.6% of tests returned positive every day in the past week in Wisconsin as of Wednesday, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, which is more than five times the rate that health experts recommend.
A high positivity rate can be a sign that a state is only testing its sickest patients and failing to cast a net wide enough to accurately capture community transmission, according to Johns Hopkins University. The World Health Organization recommends that governments get their positivity testing threshold below 5%.
More than 1,700 people in Wisconsin have died of the virus so far, according to the health department.
During a Thursday press briefing, Evers doubled down on his message about the severity of Wisconsin's outbreak.
"To those who say this pandemic has been blown out of proportion, or that there isn't a real risk, folks, that's just flat out wrong," Evers said. The governor pointed to families who have had loved ones died of COVID-19 and to the health care workers putting their personal health and safety on the line, while working emotionally exhausting hours to care for COVID-19 patients.
"Make no mistake," he said. "This is an urgent crisis."
What to know about the coronavirus:
- How it started and how to protect yourself: Coronavirus explained
- What to do if you have symptoms: Coronavirus symptoms
- Tracking the spread in the U.S. and worldwide: Coronavirus map
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