Mich. hospitals' COVID-19 patients triple in a month
More than 2,600 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 as of April 2, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.
That's more than three times as many people who were hospitalized in Michigan just a month ago.
A quarter of people in intensive care units had COVID, as of April 1.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun expressed her worries about the rising hospitalizations in a tweet Sunday about younger people especially getting sick.
"Worked in ER last night. More COVID, stark contrast to a month ago," she wrote. "Younger people CAN get sick and be hospitalized or spread to more vulnerable. Michigan: #MaskUp, get tested, avoid indoor maskless venues, get your #CovidVaccine ASAP. I’m very concerned."
According to MDHHS’s data, Beaumont Health’s hospitals currently have the most COVID-19 patients in the state at 533 people on April 1, with over 300 admissions in a month. The rise even prompted Beaumont to expand its COVID-19 units at all of its hospitals to avoid patients mixing.
Beaumont's percentage of COVID-19 patients hasn’t yet matched the first or second surge, said Dr. Jeffery Fischgrund, chief of clinical services for Beaumont Health. But he says it's still worrisome because it’s hard to predict how much longer the rise in cases will last.
“We just don’t know where this is going to peak,” he said.
Fischgrund said most of the COVID cases they have seen so far are of the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant that originated in the United Kingdom.
Michigan is second in the country in B.1.1.7 variant cases, which depends on sequence testing to see what kind of variant it is.
Younger age groups are being hospitalized more since they have not yet had the chance to be vaccinated, like those 65 and older. While deaths lag after hospital admissions, Fischgrund said he hopes it won’t be a high rate since patients are younger.
Still, he says he's concerned.
“The other word is just disappointment,” he said. “Because we've lived through this twice now, with two surges in Michigan, we got our vaccination programs going, a lot of people are getting vaccinated. And I think we were just all hopeful that it was not going to happen again.”
“But you know, this is the way pandemics work. And we just got to take care of our patients.”
MDHHS also keeps track of the number of available beds across the state. This includes non-COVID patients too, which helps show the occupany at facilities.
Fischgrund said across Beaumont hospitals, the occupancy rates last fall were around 60 to 65%. Now, they are a little above 80%.
In April’s first surge, COVID was a problem nobody has seen before, he said. But in the fall, he explained, the hospitals were much better prepared to balance the second surge of COVID-19 patients as well as the other medical operations.
“We’ve also become very effective in deciding who needs to come to the hospital who doesn't,” he said, explaining how medical staff learned to aid COVID patients with treatments including antibody infustions, and using ventilators as a last-case scenario. “So there is certainly some optimism that we know how to take care of these patients now, but it's still disappointing to see the numbers keep rising.”
And staffing, he said, is critical.
“What our nurses and everybody else that works in the hospital has to do to take care of these COVID patients is above and beyond what we have to do for other patients because a lot of them get very ill,” he said.
Visitations at Beaumont, as well as hospitals like Michigan Medicine and Henry Ford, have been limited.
“And it really just comes down to social distancing and the prevalence of the disease in the community,” Fischgrund said. “We test a lot of patients that are having routine elective surgery, patients that come into the emergency department for other reasons, and the percent coming back positive is now 20%, which is, I think, the highest I've seen it. So there's a lot of people out there that have COVID that probably don't even realize it.”
Fischgrund said it can be hard to stay optimistic.
“...We're going to get by this, I know we will, because eventually we'll get enough people vaccinated. But it's just a race against the virus. How many shots can we get in the arms versus how quickly the virus can either mutate or infect people that have not yet been vaccinated,” he said. “The good news is the federal government to the state government to the county is really making great efforts to get us more vaccines.”
“Until we do, we have to remember that you can still die from COVID," Fischgrund said. "And we've got to remember the social distancing and the mask wearing, and we have to act as if there's still an active pandemic going on, because there really is.”