Hospital association asks state to extend 3-week 'pause' to curb COVID-19 cases

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan's hospital association urged the state to extend a three-week pause set to expire Wednesday, arguing that the closure of indoor restaurant dining and in-person high school classes is "slowly stabilizing the spread of COVID-19 and leading to stabilized hospitals."

The Michigan Health and Hospital Association, which represents all of the state's community hospitals, asked on Monday that the pause be extended through the holiday season. 

Coronavirus virus testing at the North entrance of Beaumont hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan on March 31, 2020.

"Data is indicating slight declines in COVID-19 emergency department visits, daily admissions and total hospitalizations," the association said in a statement. "As physicians, we’re telling you: These measures are working."

Still, the hospital system continues to face staffing shortages and bed capacity concerns, the statement said. 

"Our teams on the front lines are exhausted as this second surge continues; we never truly recovered from the first," the statement said. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's three-week "Pause to Save Lives" went into effect Nov. 18 and ends Wednesday. The order closed restaurants to indoor dining, stopped colleges and high schools from in-person learning and shuttered some entertainment venues such as bowling alleys and cinemas. 

Whitmer has said she'd likely have the data early this week to make a decision on whether to extend the closures, but said an extension is "sadly possible" given the volume of COVID-19 cases in Michigan.

As of last week, Michigan's case positivity rate had decreased from 14% on Nov. 16 to around 13%, but a similar decrease in hospitalizations and occupied hospital beds appeared to lag.  

As of Saturday, the state had recorded a total of 395,036 confirmed coronavirus cases and 9,854 deaths, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. 

As of Friday, 4,113 adults were hospitalized statewide with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, up from 2,199 COVID-19 inpatients on Nov. 4.

Of those hospitalized patients Friday, 3,764 were adults with confirmed positive cases and 21 were pediatric patients with confirmed positive cases.

At McLaren, which has 13 hospitals in Michigan, officials say they're "undoubtedly seeing far more COVID activity, including emergency room visits, test positivity, and hospitalizations" at its hospitals in the northern and central parts of the state.

"One of the biggest challenges we have experienced during this surge that is different than the April-May surge is with the number of our employees who are off work with suspected or confirmed" cases, the hospital system said in a statement.

Staff writer Christine Ferretti and Sarah Rahal contributed.