Many hospitals in Michigan are nearing their capacities amid an alarming surge in coronavirus cases.
The toll on hospitals is compounded by a staffing shortage that is rippling through the state’s health care system and a rise in people seeking medical help for issues not related to Covid-19, health leaders said.
Covid-19 hospitalizations in the state are up 46 percent over the last two weeks, according to a New York Times database. The only other state with a higher spike in that time was New Hampshire, where hospitalizations increased 58 percent. Michigan had a higher per capita rate of hospitalizations than all but one state, North Dakota. Covid-19 cases in Michigan are up 78 percent over the last two weeks, according to The Times’s database. Only three states have bigger increases over that time.
“We’re all scared to death because this is now so hard to predict what will happen,” Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, the president of Spectrum Health West Michigan, said in an interview Saturday. “We’re preparing for the worst.”
Dr. Elmouchi said that Spectrum Health, which has 14 hospitals in the state, is seeing more patients than ever, driven by the Covid surge and people seeking treatment for ailments not related to the virus.
The hospital has had to stretch its resources to meet demand. It increased its I.C.U. patient capacity by about 40 percent since the latest surge, Dr. Elmouchi said.
On Saturday, Spectrum Health had 371 patients hospitalized with Covid, and as of earlier in the week, 86 percent of those hospitalized for Covid were unvaccinated. He added that the surge was taking a toll on staff morale.
“It’s one thing if you ask people to take extra shifts for a few weeks,” he said. “It’s another thing if you ask people to take extra shifts for months.”
On Friday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced a face mask advisory in an effort to slow the virus’s spread ahead of the holidays. The health department recommended that all residents older than age 2 should wear a face mask at indoor gatherings and urged businesses to implement a mandatory mask policy.
The department said the burdens on Michigan’s hospitals “have reached a critical point in areas of the state.”
Experts said the latest surge was even more concerning than past increases, and urged residents to get vaccinated. Fifty-four percent of people in Michigan were fully vaccinated as of Saturday, fewer than the national rate of 59 percent.
“Our previous surges generally went from trough to peak in about two months,” said Laura Appel, a senior vice president with the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. “In this current surge, we have been moving from the previous trough since about July 1 and we are still headed upward.”