Michigan COVID-19 hospitalization rates jump among younger people

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Hospitalization rates among Michigan adults who haven't received their COVID-19 vaccines are increasing at an "alarming rate," the main state organization that represents hospitals warned Wednesday.

The Michigan Health & Hospital Association said inpatient data it's collected indicates large growth in hospitalizations in March among younger age groups that have the lowest vaccination rates. From March 1 to Wednesday, March 23, hospitalizations increased by 633% for adults ages 30-39 and by 800% for adults ages 40-49, the association said in a statement.

Statewide, COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled over that time period, according to tracking by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Hospitalization growth rates decline as vaccination rates per age group increase, according to the association's data. Hospitalizations increased by 37% for adults 80 or older, the group found.

Internal medicine resident Shaurya Srivastava sees to a patient on a COVID-19 ward at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing on March 3, 2021.

"While much of our health care workforce is vaccinated, caring for a third surge of COVID-19 patients is mentally and physically draining for all front-line caregivers,” said Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association. "Failing to follow proven preventive measures is not only dangerous to our health but hurts our economy and delays when in-person activities such as returning to work can occur with minimal restrictions.

"It will still take a few more months to vaccinate everyone, which is why we have to do everything in our power to slow the current growth."

During the last four weeks, Michigan has experienced increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations, infections and the percentage of positive tests. The changing metrics have spurred concerns among public health experts.

Last week, Michigan reported 17,374 new cases of the virus, a 10-week high. As of Monday, the state reported 1,404 adults hospitalized with confirmed cases of the virus, a 50% increase form a week earlier. Michigan ranks among the top five states nationally for new COVID-19 cases per population over the last seven days, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Friday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called the numbers a "reality check."

"We may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But we’re still in the tunnel," the governor said.

As of Tuesday, 1.3 million Michigan residents, 16.5% of the adult population, had received their complete vaccinations, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services. About 2.3 million residents, 29% of the adult population, had received at least one dose.

The state is making progress toward defeating the COVID-19 pandemic through increasing vaccination rates, but the war is not yet over, said Dr. Gary Roth, chief medical officer for the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

"Now is not the time to let our guard down and risk contracting COVID-19 with more contagious variants emerging and vaccines becoming widely available," Roth said. "My prescription to all Michiganders is to wear your mask, wash your hands, avoid crowds and when it is your turn, get your vaccine."

Changes in the state's epidemic orders, increased hopefulness, pandemic fatigue and variants that are more contagious have led to jumps in infections in recent weeks, according to public health experts.

The increases came after promising downward trends in January and February prompted Whitmer's administration to allow restaurants to reopen indoor dining on Feb. 1, push for schools to offer in-person learning by March 1 and ease restrictions on public gatherings on March 5.