The number of people in their thirties and forties being admitted to Michigan hospitals with COVID-19 now matches those numbers from the state’s fall-winter surge, according to the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.
On Thursday alone, Michigan hospitals admitted 25 people in their 30s for COVID-19, and 34 people in their 40s. People under 50 now make up 30% of Michigan’s COVID hospitalizations.
The difference this time is that far fewer people over 60 are being hospitalized. The MHA suggests that’s because many more people in that age group have been vaccinated.
Jim Lee, the MHA’s Vice President of Data Policy and Analytics, said multiple factors, including vaccination rates and pandemic fatigue, are likely playing a role in this current spike. But Lee strongly suspects the B.1.1.7 variant out of the U.K. is a major factor, too.
“The reason why I believe that variant is impacting our hospitals is that fact that we have younger individuals coming into our hospitals, and we know the variant causes more severe illness and it's more transmissible, especially those in the younger population,” Lee said.
“One of the things I would expect that is even though we may have the second surge, the surge would have been sort of buttressed by the fact that we have so many individuals vaccinated. But even with that, we are still seeing a significant rise in hospitalizations at the same rate, if not faster than what we saw in the fall. So that tells me there's something else going on.”
Lee said he expects Michigan’s total COVID-19 hospitalizations to quickly surpass 2,500 next week. At the height of the state’s fall-winter surge, just over 4,300 adults were hospitalized.
Lee said where things go from there is the big question. But, “I think that both those age categories [people in their 30s and 40s] will surpass the 80 year olds,” he said. “Which I never would have thought would have been the case in terms of numbers of daily hospital admissions.”
One small silver lining, Lee said, is that very few of the younger hospitalized COVID patients are in critical care. But he said for now, it’s truly a race between vaccinations and variants—and people still need to be very careful and continue masking, social distancing, and taking other prevention measures.
“Just because you can go into a restaurant doesn’t mean everyone should,” Lee said. “They should evaluate locations to see, does it feel safe? And obviously, when you're eligible for a vaccine, please get a vaccine shot.”
Michigan will open up vaccine eligibility to all those 16 and older on April 5.