A small Upper Peninsula hospital pleads: You’re our neighbors, help us

War Memorial hospital in Sault Ste. Marie has smart, hard-working staff, its CEO has said. But in a pandemic, small hospitals everywhere are limited by resources. This week, the hospital that has just six intensive care beds asked the community: Help us help you. (Bridge photo by Robin Erb)

With a feared shortage of beds as Michigan sustains a second wave of COVID-19, at least one Upper Peninsula hospital is taking a more personal, intimate approach as it pleads with area residents to remain vigilant against the virus.


“You know us,” the Facebook post begins. 

“We are your neighbors. Our kids share classrooms. Our grandkids are on the same team,” the note, signed by nurses at Chippewa County War Memorial Hospital, continues. 

“We’re tired. We are watching people we know get very sick from this virus. We’re worried about spreading COVID-19 to our own families. Our co-workers are getting sick, and we’re working short-staffed…. We need our communities to rally with us.” 

The note, which urges residents to follow basic safety guidelines such as washing hands, wearing masks and staying socially distant, was crafted from a template created by communications staff at Upper Peninsula hospitals, said Ruthanne Sudderth, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Health & Hospital Association. These facilities were relatively untouched by COVID-19 in the spring, but saw a surge in patients this autumn. 

Related stories:

“We’re hovering on the capacity line, but we’re holding our own,” said Teresa Dwyer-Armstrong, spokeswoman for War Memorial.

She and others hope that the decline in hospitalizations last week is the tip of a new trend.

But they worry that a possible spread of COVID at Thanksgiving gatherings may eventually drive infections up again, and say hospitalization levels remain too high to be sustainable in the long term.

Chief medical officers Monday called on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration to extend pandemic orders that expire this week.

Trying to curb a surge in cases in mid-November, Robert Gordon, director of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, ordered a three-week shutdown of indoor service at bars and restaurants, closed high school classrooms and reduced capacity at retail stores, among other actions. The order is effective through Tuesday.

“With vaccines now in sight, nobody wants to see the progress of the last three weeks go to waste,” the medical officers wrote in a joint statement released through the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

Indeed, the statewide surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations in November has reversed, dropping four days this past week and falling in every region of the state from Monday through Friday

On Thursday, the state reported that 25 Michigan hospitals were at 90 percent bed capacity or above. 

Unlike in the spring, when overwhelmed hospitals were generally confined to southeast Michigan, COVID patients are testing hospital capacity throughout the state. 

On Oct. 30, there were 1,728 patients with confirmed or suspected COVID in Michigan’s hospitals, according to state data. By Nov. 30 it had climbed to 4,326. 

That number slid to 4,141 patients on Friday.

That number reflects the number of patients in beds. But it doesn’t capture the toll on staff and strain on equipment needed for COVID patients, said John Karasinski, spokesman for the hospital association.

Nor does it reflect the frustration of other patients whose non-urgent procedures have been delayed as hospitals make room for COVID patients.
The recent decline in hospitalizations is “a good indicator that improvements are being made, but it's not something that we can celebrate and consider that the job is done.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Mon, 12/07/2020 - 3:51pm

Reasonable people would take what the hospital staff is telling them to heart. Yoopers who support Trump won't. They think wearing a simple strip of cloth to stop the transmission of a dangerous disease is a world-ending violation of their constitutional rights. Or that it's wrong because the lord their god Trump says so.

Cruel to be Kind
Mon, 12/07/2020 - 5:00pm

Hey Shirkey, Chatfield, Hall, are you listening? Are you going to continue super spreader hearings with the likes of shady characters like Giuliani & Co? Why don't you pass some useful legislation instead, relief package? How about telling Michiganders in your districts to wear an effing mask?

Tue, 12/08/2020 - 2:16am

It didn't have to be this way. It doesn't have to be this way.

Tue, 12/08/2020 - 9:09am

As they keep voting republican who are spreading the virus!!!!

Therese T
Tue, 12/08/2020 - 9:31am

My friend is an oncologist, cancer doctor. Because so many Americans have not taken COVID-19 seriously, he was moved to the ICU, working full-time on COVID-19 care where he was urgently needed. He and his family took great care to protect themselves. However his child, age six, went to school in-person where she contracted COVID-19. She we sick for only two days, but now the whole family has COVID-19 and he is isolating at home unable to help in the ICU. I pray to God people start to take this seriously. We have been in this for almost a year and it seems so many people are choosing to be willfully ignorant, while others are sacrificing so much on the front-line.

richard a jones
Tue, 12/08/2020 - 9:48am

Why must every Covid patient with either real or possible symptoms be rushed to a hospital? If the affected person lived in a family setting before showing symptoms (and most do live in that setting) then the best possible place for recovery and overall comfort to take place, by far and away, is there.