Soaring Covid-19 cases in Michigan – where one of the nation’s worst outbreaks is underway — are pushing hospitals to critical capacity levels, and residents need to help stop the virus’s spread, the state’s largest health care system said Thursday.
Beaumont Health’s eight hospitals in two Detroit-area counties are 90%-95% full, and the number of their Covid-19 patients jumped from 129 in late February to more than 800 patients now, system officials said.
Though that’s below the system’s peak around 1,300 Covid-19 patients at one-point last year, the hospitals are also caring for more non-coronavirus patients now, as last year more non-Covid-19 patients stayed away in fear of the virus, Beaumont officials said.
“Our Covid-19 numbers are climbing higher and faster and it’s very troubling and alarming to see this,” Beaumont Health CEO John Fox said in a news release Thursday.
“We need everyone’s help immediately,” he said.
Beaumont Heath is just the latest entity sounding alarms about the rise of Covid-19 in Michigan, even as vaccinations rise.
Michigan cities account for 9 of the 10 worst Covid-19 outbreaks in the country’s metropolitan areas, according to the latest Covid-19 Community Profile Report published by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the White House.
The state has averaged 7,870 new Covid-19 cases a day across the last week — far above the winter’s low average of 1,044 on February 20. It’s also around Michigan’s highest-ever levels, seen back in late November and early December, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Statewide hospitalizations also are way up. More than 4,230 Covid-19 patients were in Michigan hospitals on Tuesday — far above the winter low of 825 on February 22 and close to the peak of 4,305 on November 30, according to HHS data.
For Beaumont, keeping staffing at a sufficient level also is a challenge, as some employees are leaving because of pandemic-related stress, chief nursing officer Susan Grant said.
Nurses are “saddened and heartbroken by the loss and the toll this is continuing to take on young people, on families, on everyone,” Grant said.
“The rate of infections in Detroit continues to climb, and we know exactly why it continues to climb. And we are the only ones who can stop it,” Duggan said Wednesday, urging residents to follow safety measures but also to encourage friends and loved ones to get vaccinated.
Beaumont’s Covid-19 patients also are younger, on average, than earlier in the pandemic, Dr. Nick Gilpin, Beaumont’s medical director of epidemiology, said Thursday.
The pause, he added, should help underscore and confirm “how seriously we take safety.”
“If anybody’s got a doubt that ‘Oh, they may not be taking safety very seriously,’ I think this is an affirmation that safety is a primary consideration when it comes to the (Food and Drug Administration) and the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). That’s why it was done,” Fauci added.
“I just don’t feel there’s enough information to make an evidence-based decision,” Dr. Beth Bell, a clinical professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, told the meeting. “We won’t have all the information, but I think there are some things that we can gather relatively quickly, which all have to do with the benefit/risk balance.”
“We do need to better understand the risk, which we know is going to be very rare, very low, but we really don’t know exactly how low and how to correctly characterize it,” Bell added.
The pause will allow researchers to investigate a potential link to severe blood events, and particularly whether certain populations may be more susceptible, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said Wednesday.
But the move to recommend a pause is important for vaccine confidence, experts said.
“When you look at what our biggest obstacles are in the coming months, it is really around vaccine demand, or hesitancy or confidence,” epidemiologist Dr. Celine Gounder told the United States Congress Joint Economic Committee on Wednesday.