Michigan adds 6,303 positive COVID-19 cases; Beaumont sets up curbside triage

Jay Greene

Michigan’s ongoing COVID-19 surge added 6,303 positive cases and 112 deaths Thursday to the growing toll of 16,731 deaths and 770,822 confirmed cases, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The deaths include 81 deaths identified during a Vital Records review.

Over the past month, Michigan hospitals have been admitting thousands of COVID-19 patients who now account for 18 percent of hospital beds, or 4,159 people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases. Since Monday, hospitals have added 241 COVID-19 patients.

At eight-hospital Beaumont Health, the number of COVID-19 patients has increased to more than 800 from 128 on Feb. 28 and 500 more over the last two weeks, exceeding the daily count from last fall. Last April, when the first surge was hitting Southeast Michigan, Beaumont treated the most of any one system, more than 1,200 patients at one time.

Because of the pace of the COVID-19 surge in metro Detroit, Beaumont started setting up outdoor patient triage stations in front of its Grosse Pointe hospital emergency department. Beaumont hospitals in Farmington Hills and Dearborn are also considering triage stations, officials said.

“Some of our hospitals have gone back to establishing a curbside triage center for some of the intake of these patients as they come to our emergency centers,” said Dr. Nick Gilpin, Beaumont’s medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology in a Zoom press conference earlier Thursday. “That’s just to help sort of balance the load in our emergency centers.”

Beaumont Health Chief Nursing Officer Susan Grant described how hospital staff have been affected by the “hundreds and hundreds of (patients) coming through our emergency rooms being admitted to our hospitals and our intensive care units.”

Grant said she has been proud and inspired by the nursing and medical team at Beaumont.

“Our nurses, our doctors, respiratory therapists, our teams, are tired, and they’re worn,” Grant said. “They’re not only physically tired and worn, they’re emotionally tired and worn.”

She said emotional exhaustion has come from being present and observing the toll coronavirus has taken on patients on families.

“They have seen a lot of deaths over the last year,” Grant said. “And now they are experiencing and seeing younger people who are in our ICU beds who are very, very sick (and) who are in the emergency rooms and in our hospital beds, some of whom are dying.”

Gilpin said he has treated a number of very young patients who had no significant medical issues other than COVID-19.

“Many of them are suffering consequences well into their illness, upwards of 10 or 12 weeks,” a condition commonly called “long-haulers,” said Gilpin, adding that he has become concerned some young people are thinking it would be better to get the COVID-19 than the vaccine.

“That is just completely the wrong way to go about this,” he said. “I really think we need to have those conversations with those people around us and really encourage people to get vaccinated because the vaccine absolutely does work.”

Earlier this week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Michigan has surpassed giving out 5.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and has more than 25 percent of the state’s population vaccinated.

Beaumont CEO John Fox asked Michiganders to take immediate steps to help stop the spread of the virus to protect themselves and health care workers.

“Our COVID-19 numbers are climbing higher and faster and it’s very troubling and alarming to see this,” said Fox in a statement. “We are grateful for the knowledge attained from the first two surges. It has helped save many lives. We also now have effective vaccines. To flatten the curve again, we all need to work together now: Wear masks, wash hands, avoid large gatherings, practice social distancing and get vaccinated. We cannot do this alone. We need everyone’s help immediately.”

Respondong to a reporter’s question, Gilpin said he agreed with the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who suggested Michigan should impose emergency business restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

“I want to say that I do agree with the CDC director that it is going to be difficult to vaccinate our way out of this,” Gilpin said. “About 25 percent of our population is fully vaccinated. That’s a far cry from where we need to be to get those herd immunity numbers that will really bring this under control.”

Over the past month, Whitmer has been advocating for citizens’ personal responsibility to wear masks, social distance and make an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine as an alternative to orders she or her health department issued last year as part of an comprehensive effort to contain the virus.

Gilpin said he supports people who want to get the vaccine as soon as possible.

“I think that’s important. But if you also look back at our prior surges, what was the difference?” he asked. “The difference in the first surge that we experienced was that there was there were restrictions in the community to limit gathering sizes, and limit indoor activities that we know are very effective ways to transmit coronavirus.”

From a physician’s perspective, Gilpin said he believes the state should increase business restrictions, at least temporarily, until vaccination rates reach higher penetration levels in the community.

“I’m also aware that the governor has made a very strong statement that she are a strong recommendation that people take it upon themselves to restrict themselves,” he said.

“I think that the people who were going to do the right things are already doing the right things. People who are not doing the right things will not do the right things. And so I think some of that is preaching to the choir, unfortunately. And in a time like this right now in Southeast Michigan and Michigan at large, I do think we have to be a little bit more prescriptive.”


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