Beaumont doctor: ‘Metro Detroit is again becoming a hotspot’ for COVID-19

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Detroit Free Press
Nov 11, 2021
Kristen Jordan Shamus

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 rose 20% in Michigan in the last week, to 2,621, alarming hospital leaders who say the state is now mired in its fourth coronavirus surge.

While many other parts of the country are seeing declines in cases and hospitalizations, those pandemic indicators are climbing in Michigan.

“Metro Detroit is again becoming a hot spot,” said Dr. Nick Gilpin, Beaumont Health’s director of infection prevention and epidemiology during a Thursday news conference.

The state’s seven-day coronavirus case rate now ranks ninth highest nationally, at 344.5 per 100,000 cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percentage of positive tests has surpassed 14% statewide.

“I am very concerned about the trajectory of this new wave,” Gilpin said.

Across Beaumont’s eight hospitals Thursday, there were 397 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, Gilpin said. That’s still lower than the peaks seen in April and November 2020, but it’s rising fast.

“This is our early-warning system,” he said. “We’re seeing community numbers increase. And I think with more cold weather on the way, with people starting to make plans for the holidays to get together, I think it’s an important time just to let everyone know that we’ve got to stay vigilant.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re wearing those masks. We’ve got to make sure we’re taking those precautions. We’ve got to get ourselves vaccinated. Those are the things fundamentally that are going to really improve the situation.”

The majority of patients hospitalized with the virus at Beaumont are unvaccinated, Gilpin said. Most people who develop vaccine breakthrough infections don’t need hospitalization. Those who do, Gilpin said, are people who are elderly or have underlying health conditions that make them especially vulnerable to the virus.

Other hospital systems in Michigan are feeling the stress, too.

Traverse City-based Munson Healthcare announced Tuesday that it has now exceeded capacity at its nine northern Michigan hospitals for the first time in its 106-year history, and is operating at “Pandemic Response Level Red.”

COVID-19 Hospitalizations climb in Michigan

The number of patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 has risen about 20% in the last week in Michigan.

That means that physician’s offices, labs, outpatient clinics and hospitals will remain open, but non-urgent surgeries and other procedures may have to be delayed, especially if they require an overnight hospital stay, said Munson spokesperson Dianne Michalek.

“The number of patients we are seeing in our hospitals right now are close to those we experienced during the worst of the pandemic last spring,” Christine Nefcy, Munson’s chief medical officer, said in a statement.

“Now, more than ever, we need our communities to band together with us by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask in public, practicing proper hand hygiene, and avoiding large gatherings whenever possible.”

In recent weeks, Henry Ford has typically had about 150 coronavirus patients filling hospital beds. By Monday, the COVID-19 census had jumped to 250 patients.

“The case rate, which is how many new infections there are per 100,000 people, it’s going up across the entire state, especially in southeast Michigan,” said Dr. Dennis Cunningham, medical director of infection prevention for Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System. “So I do expect the numbers will continue to get worse for a bit.”

At least eight other hospitals were listed by a state health department database as being at 100% capacity Wednesday:

  • Beaumont Hospital Wayne
  • Bronson South Haven
  • Detroit Receiving Hospital
  • St. Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital
  • Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital
  • Sparrow Eaton Hospital
  • ProMedica Coldwater Regional Hospital
  • ProMedica CV Hickman Hospital

Nearly two dozen others are operating at 90%-99% capacity, and include:

  • Ascension St. John Hospital
  • Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital
  • Beaumont Hospital – Troy
  • Beaumont Hospital Trenton
  • Covenant Healthcare
  • Henry Ford Macomb Hospital
  • Hurley Medical Center
  • McLaren – Macomb
  • McLaren Flint
  • McLaren Greater Lansing
  • McLaren Port Huron Hospital
  • OSF St. Francis Hospital
  • Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital
  • Promedica Monroe Regional Hospital
  • Sheridan Community Hospital
  • Sparrow Hospital
  • Spectrum Health – Blodgett Hospital
  • Spectrum Health – Butterworth Hospital
  • Spectrum Health – Pennock Hospital
  • St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea
  • St. Joseph Mercy Hospital
  • University of Michigan Hospitals & Health Centers

Gilpin said the Beaumont system is still open and available to treat both COVID and non-COVID patients, but the strain on staff is very real.

“We’re all very much tired of this, and taking care of sick COVID patients is incredibly labor-intensive,” he said, “But we mask up and we gown up and we do our job.

“I don’t think you’ll find any health care system in the state of Michigan and certainly not in metro Detroit that’s not dealing with staffing challenges. We do the best we can. We’re very nimble.  … But it is difficult and especially as we look ahead to the prospect of a fourth surge that could last another three or four months or take us through the winter.

“This is going to be a tough one. … This one … is shaping up to be a little bit more of a marathon than a sprint.”

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