On Nov. 19, Michigan reported 8,324 confirmed new cases. There were 3,805 total hospitalized adult positive and suspected COVID-19 cases.
Every three weeks since early October, the numbers of hospitalizations have doubled and the cases have increased threefold, said state epidemiologist Sarah Lyon-Callo in a Wednesday conference call with reporters.
Moreover, Michigan ranks sixth nationally in coronavirus cases and fifth for the number of COVID-19 related deaths, said Lyon-Callo, who is the MDHHS’ director of the bureau of epidemiology and population health.
On Thursday, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said Khaldun said Michigan trails only Texas, Illinois and California for total hospitalizations.
Moreover, state data shows people ages 30 to 49 are being infected by coronavirus at higher rates (650 cases per million) than people ages 50 to 69 (550 per million). Those ages 70 or above and 29 or younger have the lowest rate, at about 450 per million
“Cases and deaths are rising at all age groups, and among all racial and ethnic groups that we record data for,” said Lyon-Callo, adding that mortality rates tend to lag by about two weeks.
On of Nov. 17, Michigan’s ICU occupancy stood at 81 percent with 2,592 people occupying 3,192 total ICU beds. Hospitals have 72 percent bed occupancy with 18,438 people in the total 25,445 total beds. Mechanical ventilators have greater capacity at 35 percent with 1,431 in use of the 4,105 available.
For now, top doctors say the health care system has sufficient bed and ICU capacity. But beds and ICUs are filling up fast with COVID-19 patients and the situation is expected change dramatically in the next three weeks, Gilpin said.
Dr. Adnan Munkarah, chief clinical officer with six-hospital Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, said only about 22 percent of the system’s ICU beds have COVID-19 patients. Overall, ICU beds occupancy rates are above 85 percent, which includes patients with other medical conditions.
“(ICU bed) capacity was high even before” the recent second COVID-19 hospitalization surge, Munkarah said. “We have hospitals in the high 80s and 90s with occupancy. We are taking measures with our non-COVID related care.”
Despite the increase in hospitalizations, Munkarah and Gilpin said a smaller percentage of people are dying from COVID-19.
The doctors agreed the No. 1 reason is they know more about the disease and how to treat and manage it.
“Number two is that up recently, the median age of the patients who are admitted to the hospital in the past few weeks was slightly younger than what we have seen in the spring,” Munkarah said. “We know that older individuals tend to have worse outcomes, a higher mortality rate.”
Gilpin said an increase in people wearing masks also helps reduce the viral exposure load of coronavirus. Studies have shown that wearing masks reduces the chance of exposure by 70 percent.
“When someone wears a mask, and they’re exposed to the virus, they’re getting a lower concentration of virus, and that may translate to less severe disease,” Gilpin said. “Older people with chronic diseases who are at highest risks also may be following public health guidance and recommendations for social distancing.”
To prepare for greater numbers of COVID-19 patients, Gilpin said Beaumont has begun the process of converting wings and units back into coronavirus-only areas. “We’ve done that at most if not all of our hospitals,” he said.
“We are going to be pushing our limits over the next few weeks,” Gilpin said. “It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.”