Get Caught Up: Answers to commonly asked COVID questions; major Michigan hospital system officials discuss omicron surge status

Doctor answers questions about booster, tests, face coverings; Henry Ford Health system offers status update amid surge

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Dr. Frank McGeorge has been keeping viewers up-to-date and informed on all fronts. He’s been answering your questions about the vaccine, the vaccination process and more.

Our Dr. Frank McGeorge, MD, has been answering questions about COVID-19, the vaccines and masks since this pandemic started.

This week he answered another round of questions from Local 4 viewers and ClickOnDetroit readers -- read below. If you have a question, ask here.

Also in this week’s “Get Caught Up” we take a look at what Henry Ford Hospital officials said Thursday about COVID in Michigan.

Get Caught Up” is ClickOnDetroit’s Saturday news review to help readers catch up on the biggest stories of the week.

Answers to commonly asked questions about COVID, vaccine, booster, masks

I am mandated by my employer to get a PCR test. I also have an appointment to receive my booster dose the day before. Will this booster dose affect my PCR test at all? Should I postpone my booster for a week later?

No, the booster will not impact your PCR test -- or a rapid test. You do not need to postpone your booster.

If the new variant is not as deadly, why will hospitalizations increase?

It’s a super important distinction that you are making. Just because omicron doesn’t kill as many people that become infected, doesn’t mean that it won’t make lots of them sick enough to need hospitalization until they recover. In fact, when you look at current data that’s basically what we’re seeing. Hospitalizations are increasing with the spike in new cases, but ICU admissions, the people most likely to die, aren’t going up as quickly.

Face shields were recommended when the idea of wearing face covering first came up, but why has nothing been said since?

The recommendation behind face shields was made at a time before masks were widely available. Given the superior protection of masks, the CDC does not recommend face shields as a substitute for masks.

My 13-year-old son received his booster shot on a Saturday and then tested positive for COVID on Wednesday. Will his booster still be effective or will he need to retake his booster at a later date?

First, I just want to make sure there’s no confusion. The booster is not related to him testing positive four days later. The booster will have the same effect and it does not need to be re-taken. I would add, as a silver lining of sorts, the infection will also boost his immunity even further.

The day I was going to get my first shot for COVID, I came down with it. I got the antibodies Sotrovimab on Nov. 2. When can I get my vaccinations? We need to know so we can protect ourselves.

Because you received monoclonal antibodies, you should wait 90 days before being vaccinated. One thing that might reassure you is that you most likely have at least 90 days of protection from your infection.

Read more

View more Michigan COVID data here.

49 things Henry Ford Health leaders said about current COVID situation

Henry Ford Hospital officials spoke Thursday about COVID in Michigan, providing an update on the rapid spread of omicron and revealing that there are both hundreds of patients hospitalized and hundreds of employees out due to the virus.

Dr. Adnan Munkarah, executive vice president and CCO of Henry Ford Health System, and Bob Riney, president of health care operations and COO at Henry Ford, spoke during the briefing.

Here are the main takeaways from Munkarah and Riney:

Henry Ford COVID hospitalizations

  • As of Thursday morning, there are 520 patients hospitalized with COVID across Henry Ford hospitals.
  • That’s about a 10% increase in the past week.
  • “We are still under surge, and we are under a rise at the present time, as it comes to COVID hospitalizations,” Munkarah said.
  • Five children under age 17 are currently hospitalized with COVID in Henry Ford hospitals.
  • The system’s test positivity rate is at 36.7% -- significantly higher than in the summer, when that percentage was in the single digits.
  • “One of the things that is most concerning is that people are presenting with symptoms, whether in the emergency department or outpatient facilities,” Munkarah said.
  • About 50% of people going to Henry Ford hospitals with COVID-like symptoms are testing positive for the virus.
  • Last week, the highest COVID positivity rate was among people ages 21-30.
  • People in the age group 21-40 represent 33% of the system’s positive cases in the past week.

Boosters incredibly effective against COVID hospitalization

  • Of the people hospitalized with COVID at Henry Ford, the majority are unvaccinated.
  • More than 65% of patients in the hospital with COVID are unvaccinated, Munkarah said.
  • More than 90% of patients who are in the hospital with COVID have not had their booster shots.
  • “The same stands for people who are in the intensive-care unit or the ventilators,” Munkarah said.
  • These vaccination and booster trends are consistent with hospital systems across the state and the nation.
  • “We cannot stress enough the importance of vaccination and the booster,” Munkarah said.

‘Frustrating’ misinformation about vaccines

  • “We keep seeing the misinformation related to the efficacy of the vaccine, and it is honestly getting more and more frustrating,” Munkarah said.
  • He said the data and evidence in support of these vaccines remains “extremely strong.”
  • Hundreds of scientists, physicians and infectious disease experts have looked at the data and are certain COVID vaccines are effective in limiting infections and severe illness.
  • The booster has “definitely” minimized the impact of COVID, and even when boosted people get infected, the illness is usually very mild, Munkarah said.
  • “This is our way out, and everybody is repeating the same and confirming this,” Munkarah said. “This is not only one physician, this is not 10 physicians. This is thousands of physicians around the globe, and experts are supporting that.”

Federal assistance

  • Riney said a team arrived Sunday (Jan. 9) for orientation and started providing immediate care Monday (Jan. 10).
  • The first team that is already there will be on site until Jan. 21.
  • The second team will then take over and stay for an additional 30 days.
  • The nursing and medical staffs have especially benefitted from the federal team’s presence.
  • This is the second phase of a two-part deployment under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense Medical Disaster Group.
  • The teams have the expertise to support hospital staff in providing care for up to 24 beds, Riney said.

Henry Ford hospital scene

  • Unlike during previous surges, Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital’s emergency department is receiving an extremely high volume of non-COVID and COVID-19 patients, Riney said.
  • As of Monday (Jan. 10), about 87 beds are closed due to staffing challenges, according to Riney.
    • 64 beds at Henry Ford Hospital.
    • 22 beds at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital.
    • “A few” at Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson.
  • The closed beds represent about 3.6% of the system’s total number of beds.
  • Last week, there were 97 beds closed. Riney said the number of closed beds greatly fluctuates, based on the COVID situation.
  • Emergency non-COVID care is still available at all times.
  • Critical or time-sensitive surgeries, such as those for cancer, are not being canceled or delayed.
  • Non-time-sensitive procedures that are postponed are being rescheduled as more beds become available.
  • Henry Ford Health has 593 employees out of work due to COVID right now.
  • “This is due to the fast-spreading omicron in the community,” Riney said. “These are not work-related spreads.”

Omicron variant

  • Henry Ford hospitals continue to see cases of both the omicron and delta variants.
  • Looking at the number of hospitalizations compared to the number of COVID cases in the community, Munkarah said it’s believed that the disease at the present time isn’t causing as much severe illness.
  • Since the number of those in the community with COVID is so much larger right now, the number of people hospitalized is still overwhelming, even though it’s a smaller overall percentage of the total COVID-positive people.
  • Of any COVID variant, omicron is the most contagious, so even a small percentage of a very large number of people being hospitalized is enough to overwhelm health systems.
  • “The concern is that we have a huge number of people (with COVID), and although the percentage of people who get sick or might die is much smaller, the total numbers are much bigger, so we are going to see, unfortunately, bigger negative impact, a bad outcome, if we don’t control it,” Munkarah said.
  • People who think omicron should just be allowed to spread through the community like wildfire in the hopes of herd immunity aren’t looking at the massive negative impact that would have, with hospitals getting even more overwhelmed and many getting sick and dying, according to Munkarah.

National blood shortage

  • Blood donations have decreased and blood drives have been canceled more often due to the COVID pandemic.
  • The blood supply is at its lowest level in years.
  • If it doesn’t stabilize soon, officials are concerned that life-saving blood needed for patients won’t be available.
  • Henry Ford has not canceled any surgeries, but there is concern that that could change in the coming days or weeks if the blood supply doesn’t increase.
  • Munkarah asked anyone who is 17 or older to come forward and help by donating blood.
  • The process takes up to one hour, and one pint of blood can save up to three lives.

9 COVID takeaways: ‘This surge is not like the others,’ and where Michigan is heading

With Michigan in the midst of its most dramatic COVID spike to date, health officials held a briefing to address this surge and talk about where the state is heading.

Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and chief medical executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian spoke during the briefing.

Here are nine takeaways from the briefing.

About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.