‘They’re dying’: Gundersen COVID unit director in La Crosse goes viral with plea for young people

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — The medical director of the COVID unit at La Crosse’s Gundersen Health System has gone viral with his look behind the scenes at the hospital.

Dr. Josh Whitson described how the Delta variant has affected his patients and urged people to get vaccinated against the disease in a candid video released on the Gundersen Health System Facebook page.

The COVID unit has seen a rise in patients over the past few weeks, Whitson said, and the Delta variant has been much more severe than previous strains of the virus. There were 30 COVID-related hospitalizations on Friday, jumping up from 21 earlier this week.

“What we’re seeing primarily is young, otherwise healthy people coming in very sick,” Whitson said.

People from their early 20s to their 50s or 60s are being admitted with low oxygen and being put on ventilators. They are also dying from COVID-19.

“Again, this is healthy people. Otherwise no real major risk factors for the disease,” Whitson said. “My concern in that is that these are young people now. They’re dying. They’re healthy. They may have been doing all the right things before, but now they’re here, and they’re sick and doing poorly.”

There aren’t many treatment options, the doctor said. “There are no miracles we have to offer, just support in the best that we can.”

The key is prevention and the best prevention is vaccinations, he said.

“We know it won’t necessarily prevent you from getting the disease, but at least you have a much lower chance of getting a severe disease and ending up in the hospital with me,” Whitson said.

The video had more than 46,000 views and nearly 1,000 shares as of Friday morning.

Watch the full video here:

Western Wisconsin had 80.9% of hospital beds in use and 88.4% of hospital beds in use as of this week, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health System.

A total of 92 La Crosse County residents have died of COVID-19 since March 2020. More than 7,500 deaths have been confirmed in Wisconsin since the start of the pandemic, including 11 confirmed on Wednesday.

State health experts say La Crosse is facing a high transmission level. There have been a total of 345 confirmed cases within La Crosse County over the last seven days.

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