The VetsRoll trip planned for this year has been canceled because of the spike in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations attributed to the omicron variant of the coronavirus, according to VetsRoll co-founder Mark Finnegan.
VetsRoll took its last trip to Washington, D.C., to visit various war memorials and sites with hundreds of veterans in 2019. Since then, the trips have been canceled because of the pandemic.
Finnegan called the decision “gut-wrenching” and said the VetsRoll medical team made the decision to postpone the trip. He said it would be “irresponsible” to subject the group’s veterans, staff and volunteers to potential COVID-19 exposure.
“An outbreak of a communicable disease when hospitals are pushing 100% of capacity would be something that could have dire consequences,” Finnegan said. “We would not have the ability to properly quarantine, and when so many of our guests have critical respiratory needs, we must place their safety as our top priority.”
VetsRoll currently has 89 veterans on its waiting list between the ages of 85 and 106 as of May 1, Finnegan said.
The trip was originally set for May 21 through May 24, but Finnegan said a host of variables, from medical personnel availability to hotel and hospital availability, were too great of unknowns to overcome.
The organization is hoping to make the trip in May 2023.
“We ask for your compassion and understanding for why we have regrettably made this decision four-plus months from our trip dates, but we have to allow time for our hotel, restaurant and transportation partners to be able to make changes on their parts. This is not a political decision. It is simply the right decision,” Finnegan said.
Locally, COVID-19 continues its omicron-related surge. On Thursday, 207 new cases and one additional virus-related death were reported in Rock County, bringing the countywide total to 28,517 cases and 261 deaths. Hospitalizations in Rock County also reached a pandemic-high on Thursday as 75 patients were admitted for inpatient care at Rock County hospitals, according to the Rock County Public Health Department.
The spike in hospitalizations and active cases comes as Rock County epidemiologist Nick Zupan said current and recent data suggests that there are more people currently infected with COVID-19 than the number of PCR confirmed tests that are reported in official county data based on monitoring of the wastewater treatment facility in Janesville.
“The wastewater testing can give us an idea of the trends that are occurring beyond what is reported to the health department in PCR testing,” Zupan said. “Although it’s difficult to estimate how many more people have COVID-19 based on the wastewater data, we are seeing much higher levels now than any other time in the pandemic.”