Michigan hospitals plead with residents to mask up, ditch holiday plans

More than 3,000 Michiganders were hospitalized with COVID-19 this week, pushing some hospitals toward capacity. (Shutterstock)

Michigan hospital leaders Thursday pleaded with residents to mask up and cancel any routine Thanksgiving plans. With the current surge of COVID-19  cases through the state, hospitals will reach the same overwhelming pressure they did last spring by the end of this month, they said.


Staff is limited, and they are getting tired.

Testing supplies are shrinking, with no end in sight.

Planning the holidays as normal will only make hospitals’ ability to handle the virus worse.

Those were the urgent messages hospital leaders shared on a conference call with reporters Thursday.

“The healthcare system can capsize if you don't keep it under control. We're ready to dedicate you know as much as we need to … it's not unlimited,” said John Fox, CEO of Beaumont Health, the state’s largest hospital system.

Fox joined six other hospital leaders representing both metropolitan and rural hospitals.

“Our state is now in a phase of exponential increases in both COVID-19 cases, COVID-19 hospitalizations, and I think it's fair to say that a slowdown is nowhere in sight,” said Gerry Anderson, Executive Chairman of DTE Energy and Co-Chair of the Michigan Economic Recovery Council, a group of business and health care leaders appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Anderson organized the call, according to the public relations firm that notified journalists.

“The healthcare system can capsize,” said Beaumont Health CEO John Fox, who with other Michigan hospital leaders, asked the public Thursday to fight the spread of COVID-19. (Courtesy photo)

Last spring, COVID slammed into Detroit and southeast Michigan first,  overwhelming health systems with a sudden crush of severely ill and dying COVID-19 patients. Hospitals scrambled for staff, as many health care workers fell ill, and for personal protective equipment, ventilators and other equipment. Desperate, they turned to the public for DIY masks and other supplies and ran out of space for storing bodies.

As the virus surges at record levels this fall, cases are spreading more broadly across the state, though medical care is better as doctors and researchers have learned so much more about the virus, and how best to treat it.

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But staffing is more limited now, as hospitals have less ability to pull doctors, nurses and technicians from other, lesser hit areas of the state and country, since COVID is surging across much of the nation. 

“Having spaces to go is one thing,” Spectrum Health CEO and President Tina Freese Decker said on Thursday’s media call. “The other concern we have is just our team. They've been dealing with this for a very long time, so they are tired.”

The increase in community spread means they’re at even greater risk of becoming sick themselves, she and others said.

On Wednesday, Michigan reported 6,008 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 42 deaths, as the numbers of Michiganders hospitalized with COVID-19 passed 3,000. In contrast, 484 Michiganders were hospitalized with COVID on Oct. 1.

Hospitals that had been spared the brunt of COVID-19 now face capacity issues, leaving little “safety valve” or ability to transfer patients among hospitals, said Munson Healthcare President and CEO Ed Ness.

Throughout Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, 61 percent of the intensive care patients have COVID-19, said Gar Atchison, Chief Executive Officer and Market President at UP Health System – Marquette.

“The capacity issues are in the U.P. They're in northern Michigan, and they're in all of our communities,” said Munson’s Ness.

Making matters worse are worsening outlooks in the state’s nursing homes and other senior facilities. In some cases, hospitals are ready to discharge patients “back to a skilled nursing facility” but nursing homes “are either unwilling or unable to accept” them, said Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

Alternative care facilities, such as field hospitals, could relieve a “bottleneck” in care, but only if there are health care workers left to staff them, Peters said.

As Bridge Michigan reported, several hospitals boosted the minimum wage for lower-level workers in recent weeks as a way to keep and lure new critical workers in dietary, janitorial and other entry-level areas. Beaumont announced pay increases for 3,700 nonunion staff Thursday morning. It also said it will pay “Thanks for Thanksgiving” bonuses. Full-time employees will receive $1,000 and part-time contingent employees will receive payments based on their hours. 

Senior leadership will be excluded from these payments. 

Hospital leaders said they remain frustrated that so many people still do not wear masks. Sometimes, people resist mask-wearing even in hospitals, they said.

The hospital leaders also noted that many residents falsely assume COVID spreads only in large gatherings or among strangers at, say, a grocery store.

That’s just wrong, they said.

“One of the challenges I think we face in our northern Michigan rural communities (is that) people know each other, they're comfortable with each other — their friends, their family,” said Munson’s Ness. “There is this perception that ‘If I know somebody, and I'm just getting together with those friends, they couldn't possibly have’” the virus. 

“Just because you know somebody, just because they're friends, doesn't mean that you shouldn't be cautious,” he said.

The hospital leaders called on residents to take personal responsibility for keeping their loved ones and communities safe to curb COVID spread.

“I think none of us want to go through the shutdown and the brute force of what happened in the spring,” said Beaumont’s Fox.

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Jake Fluku
Thu, 11/12/2020 - 3:12pm

We'll take your requests under consideration. Sorry to say, it looks like they've been overruled.

middle of the mit
Thu, 11/12/2020 - 4:37pm

To the healthcare workers, hospital staff and management:

This is what you and we have to look forward to. There are those of us who think we know more than you do, and they are trying to prove it. The legislature has decided that those people need to have more representation than those who would like to keep this thing patted down as much as humanly possible.

Unless we can get the GOP to work with us on bipartisan legislation, (dusting off the Governors EO's that they will agree to) nothing is going to change. Thank you for your dedication, temerity and bravery working with this. I wish we could show you more gratitude by wearing masks, but that is not who we are.

Just yesterday I saw this.



Now even the Detroit News is telling you news you don't want to hear naysayers. You wanted to know what the experts had to say. Are you still going to act like you don't know what they are saying?

Fri, 11/13/2020 - 2:28pm

In all the stores I go into, Meier, Walmart, Kroger and even restaurants, almost 100% are wearing mask's,,,still, Covid is on the rise, maybe due to the riots this summer....?

Fri, 11/13/2020 - 6:22pm

Do you know the definition of "insanity" in this case? Answer: "Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome" Statistics do not lie. The fact that there is no evidence that social distancing or masks are even making a difference is one thing, but to continue to push both is absurd. COVID is not going away. Everyone (yes everyone) will be exposed multiple times in their lives moving forward. Unfortunately some will experience adverse effects (and even death) while a significant number will have little to no symptoms. What is even more disturbing is that the "experts" (not sure if there really are any) think they can actually impact this. Sorry, but this is Mother Nature. You can only hope to understand and adapt.

middle of the mit
Sun, 11/15/2020 - 1:36pm

Could you show us where you get your facts? Because simple common sense tells me if something is airborne and carried in the lungs, that comes out of our mouths and gets spread in the air when we expel. You have to know this, in a few days you will be able to see your own breath in the air outside. Then try it with a mask on.

The definition of insanity could also be described as: don't do something stupid, and when you continue to do it, don't look for sympathy from those who warned you. It could also be described as : Don't be a Lemming.

Also, don't wear your seat belt, don't obey any driving laws, let your kids share hats with all the kids at school. Who cares if someone has mono, if they are cute, Kiss 'em! It's just mother nature! Would you like me to remind you how you all felt about AIDS and the HIV when it came out?


WASHINGTON -- Before there was a test, before it had a name and before there was any way to know if AIDS was spread through the air, touch or bodily fluids, there was confusion and denial.

In the play, his ranting alter ego is Ned Weeks who bemoans New York Mayor Ed Koch's apathy, the reluctance of The New York Times to write about AIDS and the refusal of President Ronald Reagan to acknowledge the disease. He also condemns gays for refusing to change their sexual behavior when it began to prove deadly.

Please don't be a Lemming

Bubba Gump
Fri, 11/13/2020 - 9:44am

The state legislation and no-maskers are the greatest threat to our lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness. According to the CDC, as of 2020, 37 states have laws criminalizing the transmission of HIV. Just saying.

Fri, 11/13/2020 - 12:02pm

"...Alternative care facilities, such as field hospitals, could relieve a “bottleneck” in care, but only if there are health care workers left to staff them, Peters said." Didn't that get tried in Novi at The Surburban Showplace and TCF in Detroit? The Nat'l. Guard set up a complete field hospital for the duration of the FIRST lockdown staffed with military medical staff and hospital staff from the hospitals in SE Michigan. There were 34 total patients treated at TCF, and 16 patients were treated at Suburban Showplace.
The state paid nearly $8.2 million each for six-month leases at the two convention centers. The cost to build the TCF center was $9.4 million. And what happened after getting such dismal results? The state RENEWED the lease again until the end of the year. The facility was closed down in June after treating 16 patients total after it opened in April.
I think the field hospital needs need to be rethought, although the state is charging only $975,000 a month, down from the $1.1 million charged per month for the first 6 months it was in use.

Fri, 11/13/2020 - 2:24pm

Trump was right, the only way to stop Covid is with immunization,,and thanks to him it will soon be here!!!

Lockd owns under Whitmir did not work!

Fri, 11/13/2020 - 3:14pm

I am wondering why when the hospitals were "overwhelmed" in the Spring, they never took Saginaw's hospitals up on their offer to take covid patients. They did not treat 1 patient for it.

Fri, 11/13/2020 - 3:15pm

DMC is laying off people and closing some satellite care centers...if "dark days loom" why would they need to do that?

Mark Williams
Mon, 11/16/2020 - 11:30am

Because they are not doing elective procedures. Part of that is due to staff shortages in nursing and CNA's. Most of it is due to patients opting out due to Covid concerns. BTW-elective procedures are what pay for many other areas of healthcare. Real science involves proper research.

Fri, 11/13/2020 - 7:35pm

We aren't ditching anything. The holidays with our elder parents could be the last so we will never let this rule our lives. We look forward to every holiday season and will not be told how to spend it.

Anti big government
Sat, 11/14/2020 - 6:27am

We can celebrate the holidays with our families if we choose to and that is our DAMN RIGHT, if others choose not to thats their decision. Its not up to doctors or nurses, AND IT SURE ISNT UP TO THE GOVERNMENT TO DECIDE WHAT AND WHEN WE DO THINGS SUCH AS CELEBRATE A HOLIDAY WITH FAMILY.

middle of the mit
Mon, 11/16/2020 - 11:27am

Uh, that would be me! Why can't you handle comparisons? Because they are similar and they all came from your side talking down things you don't understand?

By the by, why is it if we ask you to wear a mask to save others, that is us treading on you, but you telling us to shut isn't you treading on me????


Sat, 11/14/2020 - 11:37am

A 99.98% recovery rate. Most who allegedly test positive exhibit no symptoms. They have to be told they have it. Most Michiganders obediently wear a "face covering" in public. "Social distancing" is the new norm. We won't even look at other people in the grocery stores these day. And still this virus is allegedly spreading. We are awash in lies and fear mongering. Wake up, people, before it's too late.

Wed, 11/18/2020 - 9:44am

Maybe those State Health Official workers should go to the Unemployment office and offer their assistance. Obviously the system is broken and even the State Governor has taken a blind eye to the real situation here and just dish out orders to stay home. Some of us cannot afford to stay in our home, some of us had to pack up our home and go live in our parents basement. Some of us had to sell our cars, some of us have no clue where to go from here because we cannot get our benefits from the Unemployment Agency.