As the holidays approach amid rising COVID-19 cases across Michigan, Henry Ford Health System officials are starting a campaign urging residents to embrace face masks and other precautions to help halt the surge.
“We really believe that continuing to … take these measures is extremely important for us to control the spread of the virus during these first few weeks of the winter and throughout the winter before we are able to have vaccination,” Dr. Adnan Munkarah, Henry Ford’s executive vice president and chief clinical officer, told reporters during a media briefing.
The health system on Saturday launched a “Tough Love” campaign across TV and social media that later expands to radio and in print. It features images depicting challenging times in the state, including civil unrest and extreme weather, while reminding residents to commit to mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing to survive the pandemic, coordinators said.
“It’s one thing to talk about infection and death rates, and repeating that people should wear masks, keep washing their hands and continue social distancing,” Heather Geisler, Henry Ford SVP and chief marketing, communications and experience officer, said in a statement. “It’s quite another to demonstrate in the starkest terms how we have endured and overcome past challenges as a community, and how we can be tough enough to get to the other side of this one. These individual acts of resolve will make all the difference.”
The effort coincided with state officials on Friday reporting 8,689 new cases and 81 deaths linked to COVID, bringing the totals since the pandemic began to 389,032 and 9,661.
Michigan has also averaged nearly 84 daily cases per 100,000 people in the last week — the 10th highest rate in the country, according to ranking by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state also surpassed its daily record for COVID deaths on Tuesday with 190, though that figure included 30 identified during a vital records review, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said.
Meanwhile, as of Thursday, about 4,150 adults were hospitalized with the virus, including more than 840 in critical care and 502 on ventilators, state data showed.
As of Friday, Henry Ford Health System reported 365 hospitalizations of patients confirmed to have the virus across its facilities in Detroit, Clinton Township, Wyandotte, West Bloomfield Township, Ferndale and Jackson.
Another 134 were in isolation with suspected COVID, Munkarah said during his media briefing.
Some of the health system’s nearly 33,000 employees have also been affected, he added, saying 576 “are off work either because they tested positive for COVID, they have pending tests, or are quarantined because of close contact. This is up from 378 last Wednesday. … We are very concerned with the staffing shortage.”
The Tough Love campaign, which follows Henry Ford last week announcing an initiative to distribute more than 260,000 masks, is important in “asking people to help us fight this virus and help us in our battle,” Munkarah said.
The health system also is prepping for anticipated vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, having installed specialized freezers to store the treatments, he told reporters.
“We are prepared to start storing and dispensing these vaccines as soon as we get them,” Munkarah said, adding officials “are ready to deploy these vaccines to our front-line health care workers. We are also working very closely with the state and the counties to determine to how to approach and how to address the next phase of vaccination and the next individuals who will need to be vaccinated.”
Additionally, Henry Ford is planning how to administer Eli Lilly & Co.’s antibody therapy for which U.S. drug regulators recently granted an emergency-use authorization, Munkarah said.
He also called on residents to avoid large holidays gatherings and take advantage of telemedicine or virtual physician visits for other medical issues “because we don’t want to walk into a January where our hospitals are more strained they are now. We do not want to lose more people to COVID or non-COVID conditions.”