An inpatient rehab unit at Froedtert Hospital where patients go to recover from strokes, hip replacements, and other injuries, ailments and surgeries has been hit by a COVID-19 outbreak sickening at least 15 people as of Friday — including staff and patients.

The hospital in Wauwatosa tested the entire unit for the novel coronavirus last Saturday after discovering several people had contracted COVD-19, according to hospital spokesman Stephen Schooff. The patients who tested positive were moved to another floor and the staff members who had positive results were quarantined.

The source of the outbreak has not yet been determined, Schoof said.

The hospital is suspending new admissions into the unit until more is known and is prohibiting visitors to the unit as well. 

Patients and staff who work in the unit will be tested for the virus every three days for the next 14 days, Schooff said.

Froedtert had been testing all patients who are admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 but not staff members, sources told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The hospital was not taking the temperatures of staff when they showed up to work, but instead was relying on staff to self-report any symptoms on an app, they said.

“We don’t have widespread testing of staff,” said one Froedtert physician who did not want his name used because he was not authorized to speak on the issue. “It’s all self reported.”

The hospital re-opened for some types of elective surgeries in May and had been allowing patients to have one visitor per day. The visitors were screened upon entering the hospital but not required to have a COVID test, sources said. 

“We anticipate maintaining elective surgeries and procedures,” Schooff said in an email Friday. “We will continue to monitor this closely to assess whether any adjustments are needed.

“We will continue to communicate with patients and families as we get more information, while protecting privacy and confidentiality laws,” he said.

Nearby Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin feared a COVID-19 outbreak in March when a doctor tested positive for the virus after having worked with patients for a week. The hospital tested more than 100 staff members and patients in the aftermath but found the virus had not spread. 

The outbreak at Froedtert comes as hospitals across the state — including Froedtert itself, according to sources — are approaching or reaching capacity in terms of bed space and available staff. The state opened its overflow facility at State Fair Park earlier this week.

As of Thursday afternoon, 1,043 patients were hospitalized statewide with the virus, with 264 in intensive care units. 

A majority of hospitals across the state are declining to publicly release their patient numbers, making it impossible for care seekers to assess the situation at individual hospitals.  The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Wisconsin Hospital Association are tracking the numbers and releasing only overall data.

Our subscribers make this reporting possible. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Journal Sentinel at

Read or Share this story: