4th military medical team sent to Michigan amid COVID surge

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

A fourth 17-member medical team from the U.S. military is being deployed to Michigan, where hospitals are grappling with record-high numbers of COVID-19 patients amid the state’s fourth surge of infections.

The nurses, a doctor and respiratory therapists will assist Mercy Health in Muskegon as the facility treats COVID-19 and other patients, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.

Three additional teams were previously sent to Covenant Healthcare in Saginaw, Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids and Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn this month. MDHHS was notified by federal partners that the three teams will be extended for another 30 days.

“As the Omicron variant quickly becomes the dominant strain of COVID-19 across the United States, I am grateful to our federal partners for their continued support that is providing much-needed relief to Michigan's hospitals and health care personnel,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a Wednesday press release. She asked residents to get vaccinated, boosted and to get tested before traveling for the holidays.

“Michigan’s health care heroes have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic for over 18 months, and I am again asking Michiganders to take steps to help reduce the strain on our hospital systems," she said.

The additional staffing team, including registered nurses, a doctor, and other healthcare workers, are expected to start treating patients on Dec. 30 and will provide support for 30 days, the state health department said.

They will assist with providing monoclonal antibody treatments in addition to other support duties. 

“We continue to be grateful that our federal partners are supporting the dedicated health care staff in our state as they work to care for Michiganders during this latest surge of COVID-19,” said Elizabeth Hertel, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director. “The pandemic continues to take a tremendous toll on our health care workers and we are pleading with all Michiganders to do their part to support our state’s health care workers by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask in public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status, social distancing and staying home and getting tested regularly.”

As of Wednesday, 3,700 Michigan residents are hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

As of Monday, 27 of Michigan's hospitals were above 90% capacity, according to the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

Teams are being sent to the state as hospitals strain due to a spike in COVID-19 patients, the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated, the state health department said.

In October, unvaccinated people had 4.3 times the risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and 13.2 times the risk of dying from COVID-19 than people who were fully vaccinated.

From Jan. 3 to Dec. 15, people who were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated represented 85% of COVID-19 cases, 88% of hospitalizations and 85.5% of deaths, according to the health department.

The state has tallied 1,448,523 cases, resulting in 26,376 deaths from the virus since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Gary Allore, president of Mercy Health Muskegon, said he's grateful for the additional support.

"COVID-19 has put our frontline staff under the most extreme conditions, but their unwavering commitment to the safety and health of all members of our community holds true. We need everyone’s collective help to emerge out of this pandemic together," he stated in the release.

The state is asking residents to consider not visiting an emergency department for non-severe conditions.

A primary care office, virtual visit or urgent care may be the best choice as hospital and emergency departments are experiencing high demand. For emergency conditions such as stroke symptoms, chest pain, difficulty breathing, significant injury or uncontrolled bleeding, residents should still seek emergency care.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_