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As flu slams Michigan, COVID-19 hospitalizations rise as well

hospital bed
Michigan hospitals say they are handling the influx of COVID-19 and influenza patients. Both illnesses are on the rise. (Shutterstock)
  • Hospitalizations for COVID hit 1,300, the most since late February
  • White House warns of a winter surge and announces free at-home tests
  • Hospitals say they so far are equipped to handle the crush of flu and COVID patients

Michigan hospitals are getting slammed with flu patients for the first time in years, just as COVID-19 cases are rising again.


Hospitalizations for COVID-19 hit 1,300 on Wednesday statewide, the most since late February and marking the third straight week of increases. At the same time, the number of emergency room visits because of respiratory troubles has increased 90 percent in three weeks.



On Wednesday, Michigan hospitals reported 2,260 patients with COVID-19-like symptoms which include the respiratory ailments that could also be influenza, a state spokesperson said. Just three weeks ago, hospitals reported 1,209 people with those symptoms.

Michigan continues to have some of the nation’s lowest rates of influenza, but they are quickly rising, in part because people have stopped wearing masks. The flu was largely non-existent in 2020 and 2021 because of social distancing and masks.

“This year, now we’re having it,” said Dr. Matthew Sims, director of infectious disease research at Corewell Health East, formerly known as Beaumont Health.

COVID-19 cases are also rising nationwide, prompting the White House on Thursday to warn of a potential surge and announced plans to offer free at-home tests again.

People can go online and order up to four tests per household. That program had been paused in September after distributing 600 million tests nationwide.

So far, Michigan hospitals are handling the influx of patients without getting overwhelmed.


At Corewell’s hospitals, flu patients jumped to 760 the second week in December, double from the last week in November. The virus had been nonexistent for three years, and even in 2018, there were only three flu patients at Corewell hospitals.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the current flu season — at this point of the year — is the worst since 2010-11. It hit the southern United States first and has been moving north. 

Metro Detroit, which has the highest rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations, is likely getting hit before the rest of the state.

“We have not had any concerns expressed to us specifically related to COVID-19 inpatients, but our membership in general remains concerned about the overall impact of respiratory illnesses,” said John Karasinksi, spokesperson for the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.


The overall number of adult patients in Michigan hospitals has jumped 7 percent or 1,068 since early October, while the number of pediatric patients has risen 13 percent or by 86.

Lynn Sutfin, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said people can still get the flu vaccine. Sims said it takes two weeks to offer full protection, in time for the holidays.

Sutfin continued to advocate for getting the COVID-19 vaccines and for people to stay home if sick. Statewide, 69 percent of Michigan residents have received one dose, compared to 81 percent nationwide.

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