SAGINAW, MI — As COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to increase across mid-Michigan, health care officials in Saginaw, Bay and Midland counties are urging their communities to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
Covenant HealthCare, Ascension St. Mary’s, McLaren Bay Region and MidMichigan Health issued a joint press release and hosted a virtual press conference Thursday, Nov. 12, in an effort to get the word out to the public. All of these hospitals are now feeling the effects of a second surge of COVID-19 patients.
“The reason we’re gathering together today is to make sure the community understands that we have the highest number of hospitalized patients right now. Each of our hospitals are experiencing higher numbers of hospitalized patients with COVID than we’ve ever experienced, and this includes the peak in the spring,” said Dr. Matthew Deibel, emergency medical director at Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw. “Even though there is no lockdown right now, the number of hospital cases is worse than when we were in the lockdown back in the spring.”
Saginaw and Bay counties are now among the 17 Michigan counties with an average positivity rate of 15% or higher on coronavirus tests over the past seven days. Midland County now has a positivity rate between 10% and 15%.
Deibel said the region’s hospitals have adequate resources now, but they are experiencing some strain.
“We have to do something now because we expect to see those numbers increase,” he said. “At Covenant, we hit our spring peak about a week ago and right now we’re about 50% higher than that.”
As of Monday, Covenant had 111 COVID-19 patients, 22 COVID-19 patients in ICU and a bed occupancy of 78.8%, according to coronavirus data posted on the state of Michigan’s website.
Dr. Diane Postler-Slattery, president and CEO of MidMichigan Health, said the health system, which serves 23 counties, had 20 COVID-positive patients at its peak in the spring. As of Thursday morning, it had 81.
“And do we anticipate in the next couple weeks we’re going to continue to see some numbers rise? We do. That’s why we’re making this plea today,” Postler-Slattery said.
Dr. Norman Chapin, chief medical officer of McLaren Bay Region, said not only does the hospital have the highest number of inpatients it’s ever had, but the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community has “taken a heavy toll on our staff,” noting that nearly 100 staff are currently out with symptoms and more than 20 are confirmed positive.
Dr. Stephanie Duggan, regional president at Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital, said 12% of patients currently in the hospital are COVID-positive. Like other hospitals in the region, St. Mary’s has taken special precautions, such as performing health screenings and temperature checks at entrances, testing patients before scheduled procedures, and isolating COVID-19 patients in negative-pressure units.
“Although we definitely are experiencing our absolute numbers of COVID patients being higher than what we saw in the spring, we’ve learned a whole lot about this disease, we’ve learned a whole lot about how to treat it and so, at this point, we have very few ventilated patients,” she said. “We’ve also seen a significantly decreased length of stay in the hospital.”
Deibel said there’s a common misconception that the virus is weaker now than it was in the spring. That’s not the case.
“The virus itself is not weaker and we still do not have a cure. We still need to take it absolutely seriously,” he said. “We are safe, we have the supplies we need, at the trajectory right now though we need the community’s help in order to flatten the curve.”
In a joint statement issued Thursday, the region’s four hospitals said:
“We are asking for the STRONG support of our local community and business owners to help slow the spread of the virus. Local hospitals are seeing a rapid surge in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Currently, we are in a favorable position with supplies, medications, personal protective gear, etc. However, the situation is constantly evolving as cases across the country surge. We can again face shortages if the virus continues to spread.
“Health departments in our region have done a tremendous job compiling local, pertinent information. The Michigan Department of Health & Human Services has an abundance of COVID-19 educational materials available as does the CDC. Please share messages that are proven to work in stopping the spread. We understand that after 7 months, many are growing weary. However, from the front lines of healthcare, this pandemic is still very real. We must work together to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Collectively, our local hospitals are depending on our community now more than ever. Please lessen the strain on our healthcare heroes and ensure we can care for those in need by doing the following:
• Avoid close contact and limit social gatherings
• Wash your hands frequently
• Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others
• Cover coughs and sneezes
• Clean and disinfect surfaces often
• Monitor your health daily
• Avoid unnecessary contact outside your home
• Know how COVID-19 spreads
We value the ability to care for our community and we are coming to our community in this time of need for their support. We are pleading for your help.”
Michigan reported 6,008 new cases of coronavirus and 42 new deaths on Wednesday, Nov. 11. The state’s seven-day average is now 5,313 new cases a day compared to an average of 3,507 last Tuesday. The seven-day average of deaths is 50 deaths a day, compared to 19 a week ago.
For statewide data, visit MLive’s coronavirus data page, here. To find a testing site near you, check out the state’s online test finder, here, send an email to COVID19@michigan.gov, or call 888-535-6136 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.
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