MADISON, Wisconsin – Wisconsin National Guard members will train as certified nursing assistants to support hospitals and nursing homes facing a surge in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Tony Evers announced Jan. 13.
To free up capacity at hospitals, staffing relief will allow skilled nursing facilities to open up 200 or more beds by the end of February to receive post-acute care patients. This week, approximately 50 Wisconsin National Guard members deployed to six nursing homes across the state. Another 80 Guardsmen who started training this week will deploy at the end of January, and 80 more members will begin training in early February to deploy by the end of February.
“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 systems,” Evers said. “I’m proud to announce our new partnership with Madison College to provide training to Wisconsin National Guard members so by the end of February we can welcome more than 200 new certified nursing assistants in nursing homes across our state and expand capacity.”
“As cases of Omicron continue to surge, this support is critical for supporting Wisconsin’s nursing homes,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “We continue to hear from our nursing home providers that they need more support to care for patients as our health system continues to be stressed by nearly two years of a global pandemic. Our new partnership with Madison College and the Wisconsin National Guard will help us ensure Wisconsinites have access to the care they need and help us increase critical health care capacity.”
Wisconsin reported a record 13,004 new COVID-19 cases Jan. 13, bringing the seven-day average to 9,915. The seven-day average has nearly doubled over the past two weeks and is now 50 percent higher than the November 2020 peak. A record 488 patients are in intensive care in Wisconsin with the coronavirus.
“The Wisconsin National Guard has been heavily engaged in the battle against COVID-19 since Day One of this pandemic,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin adjutant general. “We see ourselves as neighbors helping neighbors, and when we say that, we mean it. We will continue to assist our state in any way we can because we live and work in these same communities across Wisconsin.”
The Wisconsin National Guard has played a key role in helping Wisconsin respond to the COVID-19 pandemic since it started nearly two years ago. Guard members have administered approximately 1.2 million COVID tests and more than 230,000 vaccines. They have also assisted medical examiners, staffed a state call center to inform residents of test results, managed vaccines stockpiles and personal protective equipment.
“Our health care providers are beyond exhausted. We simply do not have enough staff to care for all those who are ill,” said Dr. Lisa Greenwood, Madison College’s associate dean of nursing. “This historic partnership between Madison College and the National Guard is critical in providing Wisconsin communities and the health care industry the help they desperately need in the fight against COVID-19.”