Michigan hospitals are seeing a wave of new COVID-19 patients fill beds across the state, creating fears over testing, staff and capacity issues — and yet another plea for everyone to wear masks and limit contact with others.
In just over five weeks, Michigan hospitals have seen the number of COVID-19 patients quadruple, from just under 700 on Oct. 1 to more than 2,800 on Monday, including a nearly 400-patient increase since Friday.
“We are getting close to a point where people won’t be able to get care for COVID” or other health issues, said Ruthanne Sudderth, spokeswoman for the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.
Tests are getting harder to find because so many people have coronavirus symptoms, hospital staff are getting infected, taking them out of commission, and hospital beds are becoming in short enough supply that some procedures are being put off.
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“We are very concerned,” Sudderth said. “It’s time for people to change their behavior.”
In the spring, a dearth of personal protective equipment caused many health care workers to get infected from patients and fellow co-workers. Now, with sufficient amounts of gloves, masks and gowns at work, workers are catching the disease elsewhere, Sudderth said.
The result is the same though: those workers have to quarantine and get better themselves before they can go back to work and help others.
The stunning jump in hospitalizations shows no signs of slowing down: More than 11 percent of all coronavirus tests are coming back positive, up from 3.1 percent on Oct. 1, as the virus has spread rapidly across much of the state.
The Upper Peninsula, with 71 patients, is at an all-time high for COVID-19, as is northern Michigan and west and southwest Michigan. And hospitals in metro Detroit’s six counties are treating over 1,300 patients, up 200 from Friday alone.
At Beaumont Health, Michigan’s largest hospital system, hospitalizations of people with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 more than doubled over the past two weeks, from 172 patients on Oct. 25 to 377 cases on Sunday.
On Monday, the state reported 62 new deaths, including 10 in Kent County, putting the November total at 300 in just nine days and on pace for over 1,000 in the month, which would be the third worst month after April and May.
Spectrum Health, which operates 13 hospitals including two in Grand Rapids in Kent County, is currently treating 269 patients, its highest total. A week ago the system had 183 patients.
And over the last week, 13 percent of the health system’s tests have come back positive, a harbinger of even more patients in the weeks ahead, said Brian Brasser, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Spectrum.
“And so it is continuing to climb and that is what makes us concerned because all indications would indicate what would point to hospitalizations lagging the positivity,” Brasser said.
Demand for tests has soared with many people feeling ill and Spectrum is already limiting tests to only those with symptoms. And this week it has stopped some elective procedures that require an overnight stay, Brasser said.
As of now, the health system can treat those who need care, including both COVID-19 patients and those with other illnesses, Brasser said.
“We are here for them,” he said. “We've been planning for this for a long time. This is not what we want to see in terms of the positivity rates and then the hospitalizations but our teams are prepared.”
While waiting to see if Halloween parties generated cases while also worrying about the upcoming holiday season, Sudderth said MHA is encouraging people to consider “downsizing” Thanksgiving: fewer people, with gatherings held outside if possible, more masks and simple safety precautions such as not sharing utensils.
“The only way for us to curb this and to … successfully bend the curve that we did so well early in the spring, is that individuals adopt those behaviors,” Brasser said.