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Michigan hospital leaders sound alarms

By DAVID EGGERT

and ED WHITE

Associated Press

LANSING — Hospital leaders warned Thursday that more than 3,000 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus in Michigan, a rate that is doubling every two weeks and is expected to top the spring peak of about 4,000 by late this month.

“It’s an accelerating trend. It’s very serious,” said John Fox, president and CEO of Beaumont Health, the state’s largest system. Inpatients with COVID-19 have tripled in less than a month at Beaumont’s eight Detroit-area hospitals, he said.

Unlike six months ago, the virus is surging statewide, not just in metro Detroit — making it tougher for hospitals to manage by transferring patients or bringing on staff from elsewhere.

Hospital executives echoed pleas by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and public health experts to wear a mask, socially distance, limit gatherings and wash hands — noting that as many as 40% of infected people exhibit no symptoms. Some reported continued resistance to face coverings from some visitors.

Ed Ness, president and CEO of Munson Healthcare — which operates nine hospitals in northern Michigan — said COVID patients have almost quadrupled in a month.

“It doesn’t matter where you live,” he said. “Even in our rural communities, you have to be diligent. … In smaller hospitals, they are the only hospital in a community. There isn’t a safety valve.”

The hospital leaders said it is not necessary for government to impose a broad stay-at-home order like in the spring but some targeted restrictions may be needed. They want to avoid prohibiting elective or non-emergency procedures, a ban the governor ordered early in the pandemic and later lifted. They said they have contingency plans, adequate personal protective equipment, and that their concern is less about bed capacity and more with doctors and nurses testing positive and being overworked as the virus spreads through their communities.

Asked if the state should open or reopen field hospitals, the executives cautioned that they are not a panacea and said staffing them could be problematic because the whole country is confronting surging cases.

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