A top executive at West Michigan’s largest health system issued a sobering update to staff Tuesday, saying he’s worried they’re standing at “the base of a mountain” of new COVID-19 cases.
The video update by Spectrum Health West Michigan president Darryl Elmouchi was posted online with limited access, so that only people with the link to the video could view it. The video is available here.
“We’ve all talked about a second surge, and if and when that would happen,” Elmouchi says in the video. “And I’m here today to tell you – it’s happening.”
As of Wednesday morning, Spectrum Health had 162 patients admitted because of COVID-19, nearly double the number it saw during the previous peak of cases in the spring. The hospital system has plenty of extra beds for now, but Elmouchi says he’s worried cases will continue to rise. Over the past two weeks, he says, the positivity rate for COVID-19 tests performed by Spectrum “has essentially tripled.”
Overall, hospital admissions in Michigan due to the coronavirus shot up 27% in the past week, according to data from the state. The number of people currently in the hospital statewide is still well below what it was in the spring, when metro Detroit was hit with a surge of cases. But for most of the rest of the state, the caseload now is the highest it’s been so far in the pandemic, and rising numbers of new positive cases suggest hospitals will continue to see more patients.
“This is serious,” Elmouchi says in the video shared with Spectrum staff. “I was asked today if we’re standing on top of a second peak. And quite honestly, my response was I’m worried that we’re standing at the base of a mountain.”
Elmouchi says Spectrum Health already raised its COVID-19 response status to “yellow” and said the hospital system will take additional steps if cases continue to rise.
“If the numbers continue to go up, we will likely have to become more active in this,” Elmouchi said, “potentially even canceling more surgeries or postponing them, with a goal not to do what happened in the spring.”
Elmouchi said the hospital system will try to stay open for patients seeking help with other health issues, but it will keep a “laser-like” focus on responding to COVID-19 as cases rise.
“So I will tell you, the next few weeks are going to be a test for all of us. I pray that I am wrong. I pray that we see the numbers go down. But right now those numbers are increasing not only here at Spectrum Health but at the other health systems across our region.”