Michigan's Covid-19 cases are soaring, so feds are sending doctors and nurses to help strained hospitals

With Michigan’s Covid-19 case and hospitalization numbers hovering near all-time highs, the federal government will send doctors, nurses and others to support certain hospitals, the state health department said Wednesday.

Michigan's Covid-19 cases are soaring, so feds are sending doctors and nurses to help strained hospitals
© Carlos Osorio/AP Registered Nurse Monica Quintana dons protective gear before entering a room at the Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, on April 21.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had asked for help, and the federal government agreed to “send two medical teams to local hospitals to relieve doctors and nurses as they treat Covid-19 and other patients,” Michigan’s health department said.

The 44 medical personnel — including doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists — will be split between Dearborn’s Beaumont Hospital outside Detroit, and the Spectrum Health system in Grand Rapids, the state health department said.

The teams will arrive next week “and begin treating patients immediately, providing support for the next 30 days,” the department said.

“I’m grateful that the federal government has granted our request to provide much-needed relief to the health care personnel who have remained on the front lines of this pandemic,” Whitmer said Wednesday.

Michigan is reporting more new cases per capita than any state

Though Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in the United States dropped off at the tail end of a summer surge, they’ve risen over the past few weeks.

Michigan — along with some other states that weren’t initially hit as hard as the South in the summer surge — has especially been under pressure.

Michigan recently reported its highest seven-day average of new daily cases for the pandemic, at 8,793 on November 19. As of Thursday, the average was 8,470 a day — still more than double where the average was at the end of October, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

About 54.4% of Michigan’s population was fully vaccinated as of Wednesday — tied for 27th among the 50 states for that metric, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Thursday, Michigan was reporting more new cases per capita over the last week than any other state, with Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Hampshire not far behind, according to JHU data.

The number of Covid-19 patients in Michigan hospitals was 4,104 on Friday, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

That figure has generally risen since mid-July, and could soon rival Michigan’s highest number of the pandemic: 4,468 on November 30, 2020.

“Our teams are so burned out and struggling to keep up with the amount of patients coming through the emergency rooms, and the difference now is just the level of their sickness is so much greater in severity,” David Claeys, president of Beaumont’s Dearborn hospital, told CNN affiliate WXYZ.

Cases are generally rising in the US

Statistics are expected to be distorted over the next few days because many states did not report numbers on Thanksgiving. But as of Wednesday — the day before Thanksgiving — the country averaged 95,758 new Covid-19 cases each day across seven days, according to JHU data.

That’s still below the summer 2021 peak of 171,123 daily reached on September 13, but it has generally risen since late October, when the average dipped to near 70,000 a day, according to JHU data.

More than a third (32,328) of the country’s average of new daily cases as of Wednesday was in the 12 states that the US Census Bureau says comprise the Midwest.

More than 52,900 Covid-19 patients were in US hospitals as of Friday, according to HHS. That’s well down from a summer 2021 peak of 103,896 on September 1, but the figure is up from November 9, when it had dipped to around 48,600.

ICU beds are more than three-quarters full around the country, more than one in seven of them for Covid-19 patients, according to HHS.

More people need to get vaccinated, Fauci says

The latest uptick in cases is “not unexpected,” as people spend more time inside during the cold-weather season and as immunity wanes, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” Sunday.

And what happens with Covid-19 in the US over the next couple of months depends on what Americans do, including whether more of the population gets vaccines and booster shots, Fauci told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on “New Day” Friday.

“Right now, we have a tool, a very effective tool,” he said Friday. “We have too many people … who are eligible for vaccination, who are not vaccinated. We’ve got to get them vaccinated. There’s no reason whatsoever not to vaccinate them.”

About 59% of the total US population is fully vaccinated, and 69.7% have received at least one dose. Among those eligible — people at least 5 years old — 74.1% received at least one dose, according to the CDC.

But that leaves more than a quarter of the eligible population — about 81 million people — without at least one dose, a CNN analysis of CDC data shows.

Unvaccinated people face a far greater risk of testing positive for Covid-19 than fully vaccinated people do, and the gap is even greater in terms of risk of hospitalization or death, according to the CDC.

Unvaccinated people were six times more likely than fully vaccinated people to test positive for Covid-19 and 14 times more likely to die of Covid-19, according to CDC data published Monday.

Fauci on Friday urged adults to get boosters at the recommended interval after full vaccination, saying they increase the level of protection “dramatically.”

“You get a booster now, you can get into the winter and have a higher degree of protection,” he said. “That’s the reason why we’re pushing so hard for people to: A) Get vaccinated in the first place if you’re not vaccinated; and B) If you have been vaccinated and you’re six months or more following an mRNA or two months or more following the J&J, go get your booster. It really is important as we enter into this colder, winter season.”

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