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Michigan hospital leaders call on residents to heed COVID warnings as cases, deaths surge

Leaders from several of Michigan’s largest hospitals systems are gathered in a virtual news conference Thursday morning as they call on residents to heed warnings about the surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state.

Beaumont CEO John Fox, Henry Ford Health System CEO Wright Lassiter III, Munson Healthcare President and CEO Ed Ness, Spectrum Health CEO and President Tina Freese Decker, Michigan Health and Hospital Association CEO Brian Peters, and Gar Atchison, CEO and Market President at UP Health System-Marquette, joined together to ask Michiganders to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash hands frequently.

“In the last week, Michigan has seen a historic and increasing number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. This has resulted in increased hospitalizations and pressure on our health care infrastructure across the state. The executives will discuss the active situations in their hospitals and what they are projecting,” reads a joint statement from the coalition.

Read more: ‘The health care system can capsize’: Michigan hospitals rapidly filling with COVID-19 patients

In their virtual news conference Thursday morning, hospital executives said Michigan residents following safety precautions -- mask wearing, social distancing, washing hands -- is the key to stopping the surge and helping keep the hospital system from capsizing.

The executives said they do not want to see another shutdown in the state because they fear it could have an even worse public health impact. However, the trend of cases -- up 40% each week in the past five weeks -- and the sharp increase in hospitalizations across the state pose a threat to the health care system. Something will need to be done to stop this. The question is will Michiganders take the necessary steps -- three rather simple ones -- to help stop this?

In northern Michigan, the top concern is a lack of available health care workers. They may have space for COVID patients in hospitals, but they do not have a sufficient amount of staffing to care for those patients.

This is a concern in Metro Detroit, too. Beaumont CEO John Fox said their contingency plan would be to stop elective procedures, as they did in the spring, and shift staffing to COVID. He wants to avoid having to do that.

“We are testing thousands of people a week for the active virus, and the positive numbers are growing rapidly. This is truly a serious situation,” said Fox. “People are delaying care for cancer and other conditions because people are afraid to go to the hospital. The tentacles of COVID-19 are long, and we all have to work together to cut them off.”

Henry Ford Health System in Metro Detroit is seeing a doubling in the number of COVID patients.

“We are facing a very grim reality this fall if Michigan residents don’t take this virus seriously – the number of admissions for COVID-19 patients at our hospitals has doubled over the past two weeks and these numbers aren’t sustainable," said Henry Ford Health System President and CEO Wright Lassiter III. “We are no longer seeing a positivity curve, but a near vertical line of new patients and new cases. Field hospitals in Detroit and Novi were closed with only limited use this spring, but we may need them again this winter if we don’t slow the spread now.”

Related: West Michigan’s Spectrum Health says hospitals near capacity amid COVID surge

Coronavirus in Michigan: Cases, deaths, hospitalizations surge

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Michigan has risen to 229,285 as of Wednesday, including 7,766 deaths, state officials report.

Wednesday’s update represents 6,008 new cases and 42 additional deaths. On Tuesday, the state reported 223,277 total cases and 7,724 deaths.

New COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise in Michigan. Testing has increased in recent weeks, with more than 45,000 diagnostic tests reported per day, but the positive rate has increased to above 11% over the last week. Hospitalizations have increased steadily for the last five weeks, including upticks in critical care and ventilator use.

View more: Michigan COVID-19 data

Michigan’s 7-day moving average for daily cases was 5,040 on Tuesday, the highest it has ever been. The 7-day death average was 46, the highest since early June. The state’s fatality rate is 3.5%. The state also reports “active cases,” which were listed at 86,600 on Tuesday, its highest mark on record. More than 128,000 have recovered in Michigan.


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