Detroit urges COVID-19 vaccines, boosters as city hospitalizations climb

Detroit News staff

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan on Tuesday urged Detroiters to get vaccinated against COVID-19, warning that the volume of residents hospitalized with the virus is quickly climbing and "we have got to address this today."

The mayor, during a morning news conference on COVID-19 at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, noted that while he's had "absolutely no conversation" about vaccine mandates for union or civil service employees, in the coming weeks he'll likely mandate shots for his mayoral appointees. Duggan clarified his intentions after an earlier news advisory noted he'd be announcing a "vaccine mandate for many city employees."

Detroit health officials joined with Dugan Tuesday to stress that COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are being offered six days per week at all city-run vaccination sites.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, right, was joined Tuesday by Detroit's Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair Razo to discuss an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Detroit and urge residents to get vaccines and boosters.

Duggan said Michigan, as anticipated, is "now at the center of the spread of COVID-19" amid the prime flu season and in the last few weeks, the number of Detroiters in hospital beds has doubled. If it doubles again in the next three weeks, the city could see the most serious problem since the spring of 2020, he said.

"If you haven't done it (gotten vaccinated) by now, you should go ahead," he said. 

The city's urging for residents to keep holiday gatherings small and get vaccines comes as similar public pleas from a statewide hospital association and Michigan health officials and after federal regulators expanded vaccine eligibility. 

Detroit continues to lag neighboring counties and the state in its vaccination rates. 

As of Thursday, 42.6% of people 5 and older in Detroit had received at least one vaccine dose. That compares to 66.8% for outer-Wayne County, 59% of Macomb County, 70% of Oakland County, 69% of Washtenaw County, and 60% of Michigan as a whole. 

Detroit has 256 beds filled with COVID-19 patients, making up 9.3% of all hospitalized patients, officials noted Tuesday. 

Denise Fair Razo, the city's chief public health officer, said all of the city's numbers are "going in the wrong direction."

"Cases are increasing, the number of people that are in the hospital due to COVID is also increasing at an alarming rate as well as our percent positivity," she said. "The ball is in our court to make sure that we stay protected."

Besides reiterating the call for residents to get vaccines, Fair Razo also encouraged frequent testing for COVID-19. 

For Thanksgiving, she said, residents should attempt to celebrate outside or in well-ventilated areas. They also should wear masks while indoors, practice social distancing and get tested for the virus prior to gathering with others. 

"It's better to know before you go," she said. "If you have a head cold ... please just stay home and ask your grandmother to save you a plate."

Michigan's Health and Hospital Association on Monday stressed that it is "extremely concerned" over the spread of COVID-19 as the state approaches its highest number of hospitalized patients since the pandemic began.

Over the previous seven days including Friday, Michigan reported 53,575 new COVID-19 cases, the highest weekly caseload since the pandemic began in March 2020.

To help curb spread, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in recent days amended the emergency use authorizations for boosters of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for all individuals 18 and older after completion of primary vaccination with any FDA-authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.

Across the state, staffing shortages and more patients in emergency departments have resulted in long wait times, patients being placed in hallways or conference rooms, and diverting patients away from the hospital due to no room or staff to care for them, the hospital association has noted.

Michigan added 17,008 cases and 83 deaths from COVID-19 on Monday, including cases from Saturday and Sunday, as the state continued to lead the country in new cases of the virus per population over the last seven days. The latest figures mark an overall total of 1,259,261 confirmed cases and 23,315 deaths since the first cases were detected in the state. 

On Friday, Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services issued an advisory recommending people wear masks at indoor gatherings regardless of their vaccination status.

The state also encouraged businesses to impose policies to ensure that all people entering, including employees, wear masks and advised individuals who are not fully vaccinated or who are immunocompromised to avoid large crowds or gatherings.

Detroit residents can get COVID-19 vaccines or boosters by appointment or by walking in at various clinic sites. To schedule a vaccine or booster in Detroit or find clinic locations, call (313) 230-0505 or visit the city's website.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has noted that 5.7 million Michigan residents 16 and up, or 70.8%, have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. Dates, times and locations of upcoming clinics are available online

In Oakland County, residents can visit the county's vaccine site or call (800) 848-5533 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; Macomb County's Health Department offers vaccine registration on its website, and Wayne County offers vaccine clinic sign up online or by calling (866) 610-3885.