Mid-Michigan hospitals nearing capacity as COVID-19 cases spike

Hospitals could be overwhelmed in a week
Published: Mar. 30, 2021 at 6:59 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says Michigan leads the country in new cases per 100,000 people over the last week.

Henry Ford Allegiance Hospital in Jackson is at around 60 percent capacity in their COVID-19 unit. But the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the situation is far worse at McLaren of Greater Lansing and at Sparrow Hospital.

“We’ve gone from 15 patients in the hospital at the end of February and beginning of March, to 73 today,” says Sparrow Hospital President Alan Vierling. ”And there’s more [patients] in the emergency department, and more to come, and the testing numbers are up.”

Sparrow Hospital is fast approaching capacity, with 97 percent of their available beds taken. But there’s a distinct difference between this COVID-19 surge and surges in the past. People who are hospitalized with COVID-19 aren’t staying as long.

“They seem to be getting out of the hospital a lot quicker because they’re younger,” Vierling says. “The average age is 60, where the average age was well over 70 prior. People who are younger have more metabolic reserve and they can recover quicker with less intense therapy, so our intensive care utilization is half what it was back in November, December.

Vierling believes the more-contagious B.1.1.7 variant is what’s causing the surge. Despite more people getting vaccinated, and vaccinated people not needing hospitalization, positive-test rates have jumped from four percent all the way up to 20 percent.

Henry Ford Allegiance in Jackson isn’t at capacity yet. But given Jackson’s current case rate -- worst in the nation according to the ‘New York Times’ -- the hospital could be filling up within a week.

Joie Nelson, a health nursing administrator with Henry Ford Allegiance is concerned about the influx of patients and how it could fill up the hospital.

“Occupancy wise, I would say certainly we would be looking at anywhere from the next seven to 10 days if we progress at the rate we’re currently seeing,” Nelson says. “Over the course of three days, we’ve gone from 16 to 51 patients.”

MDHHS says McLaren Greater Lansing is at 96 percent capacity. McLaren says that’s not an accurate representation of current numbers. But the hospital wouldn’t speak to News 10 on camera, and wouldn’t provide how many COVID-19 patients they are treating.

McLaren of Greater Lansing issued this statement when asked for COVID-19 patient occupancy numbers:

“Our ICU occupancy changes constantly with new patients needing our care and others being discharged home throughout each day. We have been able to manage all patients throughout the pandemic within our hospital.”

Vierling says Sparrow has a plan if they reach capacity that would allow for them to treat more patients. However, he says they can’t even take it day-by-day right now, but rather are strategizing hour-by-hour.

MDHHS reported more than 5,100 new cases across the state Tuesday. That goes along with 48 new deaths. Michigan has now seen more than 665,000 cases since the pandemic began.

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