LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - COVID-19 positive case in La Crosse County increased in older individuals and could overwhelm hospitals if people gather with one another outside of their households.
The Coulee COVID-19 Collaborative hosted a briefing Wednesday afternoon and said that the average age of people getting the virus increased from 23-year-olds to 40-year-olds.
The shift in demographics scares Mayo Clinic and Gundersen doctors because they older someone is, the more health risks come along with virus contraction.
"If you're in your 40s and 50s it may be that up to 5% of those people will get sick enough to be hospitalized," Mayo Clinic Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald said. "As we saw in the nursing homes up to 10% of the people in those settings were sick enough either to be ill to the point of death or have to be hospitalized."
The collaborative also said if cases continue to rise as predicted, hospitals in La Crosse could become overwhelmed.
Gundersen Health System Dr. Todd Kowalski said that an increase in COVID-19 positive patients puts a strain on the hospital staff. Care givers move from their usual units to COVID-19 units and need to work extra hours to take care of the increasing number of patients.
"This is not a drill," Dr. Kowalski said. "We are increasingly opening COVID units. We are seeing healthcare staffing issues that are coming into play and really increasing our concerns that in the coming weeks we don't change course. There will be issues."
The collaborative said the increase in hospitalizations is also due to older people contracting the virus more.
Both doctors and the La Crosse County Health Department pleaded that the community refrain from large group gatherings in order to mitigate the spread of the virus, before hospitals become overcrowded.