COVID-19 hospitalizations in Michigan reach seven-month high

Sarah Rahal Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Michigan hit a seven-month high Monday with more than 3,000 people ailing from the virus and a surge of cases having added 21,034 cases and 95 deaths from the virus over the last three days.

In the last seven days, only one state reported more cases than Michigan based on the latest state data. Michigan ranks eighth for the highest positive case rate by population nationally. 

The state also reached its goal of getting 70% of residents age 16 and older with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, two months later than initially expected. 

Michigan's hospitalizations have increased nearly 20% for two straight weeks. Should it continue on the trajectory, Michigan could have 4,000 patients hospitalized within the next two weeks, data shows.

Registered nurse Lauren Wallace assists a COVID-19 patient at Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn on Nov. 9, 2021. The hospital was 83% occupied on Monday but nine other hospitals across Michigan were at 100%.

As of Monday, 3,040 adults and 41 children are hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19, and another 159 people are hospitalized with suspected cases, according to state data. At least 698 adults are in the ICU and 381 are on ventilators. 

The state's record for most adult hospitalizations with confirmed cases of the virus occurred on April 19 with 4,158 inpatients.

John Karasinski, a spokesman of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, said the growth is concerning with hospitals experiencing a 40% increase in daily emergency department patients since October 2020. Overall bed occupancy in Michigan hospitals is 10% higher than what Michigan experienced in the fall surge when the state peaked Dec. 1, 2020, with 4,283 COVID-19 hospitalizations, he said.

"The sharp rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations continues to stress an already strained health care system," Karasinski said. "The Grand Rapids region has now surpassed their spring peak while hospitalizations in the Traverse City region are at an all-time high. This dramatic rise in cases and resulting hospitalizations is a reminder of the importance of getting vaccinated and receiving a booster dose, if eligible, as the growth is driven largely by unvaccinated patients."

About 11.6% of hospital beds are filled with COVID-19 patients, up from 10.5% the week prior. There has been an average of 2,141 emergency room visits related to COVID-19 every day in the state.

As of Monday, nine hospitals were at full bed occupancy, up from the eight hospitals from a week earlier. Those hospitals included Detroit Receiving Hospital, Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Mid-Michigan Medical Center-Gratiot, Munising Memorial Hospital, ProMedica Coldwater Regional Hospital, Sparrow Eaton in Charlotte, Spectrum Health Kelsey Hospital, St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea and St. Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital.

Hospitals need the public's help and encourage residents to get themselves, their children and others not only vaccinated against COVID-19 but also influenza, Karasinski said. 

The public should expect longer wait times at the emergency room because of high patient numbers and staffing shortages, he said, while encouraging positive test individuals to consider receiving monoclonal antibody treatments, "which are statistically proven to decrease the risk of hospitalization."

The majority of patients hospitalized from the virus are unvaccinated, the state health department has said.

The hospitalization development came as the latest figures from the state Department of Health and Human Services pushed the overall totals to 1,209,712 confirmed cases and 22,862 deaths since the virus was first detected in the state in March 2020.

The state averaged 7,011 cases per day over the three days. Of the latest deaths reported, 27 were identified during a vital records review, state health officials noted. 

Cases are not expected to slow down for six weeks or longer, according to a University of Washington projection.

Last week, the state added 31,072 cases and 293 deaths from the virus, an increase from the week prior when the state added 29,171 cases and 292 deaths from the virus. In the last week of September, the state added 23,801 cases and 244 deaths.

The weekly record of 50,892 cases was set Nov. 15-21, 2020. The second-highest weekly total was 47,316 Nov. 22-28, 2020.

On Nov. 15, 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her administration's "pause to save lives," bringing wide-ranging restrictions limiting gatherings at high schools, colleges and restaurants to combat what she described as the "worst moment" yet in the COVID-19 pandemic. Those restrictions were ended in June. 

Michigan remains at a high transmission rate and the state's percent of tests returning positive has increased from last week.

Statewide positivity increased to 14.1% from 11.6% the week prior, according to data from Tuesday.

However, the state was doing significantly more testing last year at this time than it is today.

Last week, the state reported about 280,000 confirmatory tests. During the week of Nov. 15-21, 2020, the state reported 473,000 tests.

Cases were rising more quickly last year leading to a surge; however, this year has tracked a slow increase over time, state data indicate.

The proportion of kids getting sick with COVID-19 in the state also is increasing. In Michigan; over 50% of children hospitalized have no reported underlying conditions.

Outbreaks have steadily been increasing in Michigan during the past few weeks.

But the number of new COVID-19 outbreaks at Michigan K-12 schools dropped to 87 clusters, a decrease from last week's numbers, representing 521 new cases statewide, state health data showed Monday.

The largest outbreak was at Baraga High School in the Upper Peninsula with 37 cases of students and staff. Two mid-Michigan schools in Elsie had large outbreaks — Knight Elementary had 23 cases of students and staff, and Ovid Elsie Middle School had 20 cases of students and staff.

Kent County had the most schools, 11, with outbreaks, while Clinton County had six schools.

Last week the state reported 104 schools with new outbreaks and 666 new cases at K-12 schools. No new college or university outbreaks were reported.

Staff Writer Jennifer Chambers contributed.