Evers deploys Wisconsin National Guard to help hospitals, nursing homes with capacity amid COVID-19 surge

NOW: Evers deploys Wisconsin National Guard to help hospitals, nursing homes with capacity amid COVID-19 surge

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Gov. Tony Evers announced he is deploying Wisconsin National Guard members to help alleviate the current surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

"We've seen time and time again that the Wisconsin National Guard is indispensable and can stand up to our most pressing challenges," Gov. Evers said during a media briefing on Jan. 13. "And as we continue to see COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge, we are pursuing every available option to bring needed staffing support to Wisconsin's health care systems."

The deployment includes 50 guard members who were deployed to six nursing homes this week. Another 80 or so members start training this week and will be deployed at the end of the month. Another group of about 80 members will start training at the beginning of February with deployment expected at the end of February. The training will take place through a partnership with Madison College.

The goal is for 200 or more beds to be opened up by the end of February thanks to the relief provided by the guard.

According to the Department of Health Services, 95% of intensive care unit beds and 95% of intermediate care beds in the state are in use.

DHS leaders said the effort highlights how the challenge facing the state is not a space issue, but a staffing issue.

Once trained, the guard members are expected to be spread across the state.

"We absolutely understand the need to continue to distribute resources all across the state where the needs are greatest," DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said.

Evers said he will continue to call on federal partners, including FEMA, for additional resources to help the state.

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