Soaring Covid-19 cases in Michigan – where one of the nation’s worst outbreaks is underway – are pushing hospitals to critical capacity levels, and residents need to help stop the virus’s spread, the state’s largest health care system said Thursday.
Beaumont Health’s eight hospitals in two Detroit-area counties are 90%-95% full, and the number of their Covid-19 patients jumped from 129 in late February to more than 800 patients now, system officials said.
Though that’s below the system’s peak around 1,300 Covid-19 patients at one point last year, the hospitals are also caring for more non-coronavirus patients now, as last year more non-Covid-19 patients stayed away in fear of the virus, Beaumont officials said.
“Our Covid-19 numbers are climbing higher and faster and it’s very troubling and alarming to see this,” Beaumont Health CEO John Fox said in a news release Thursday.
“We need everyone’s help immediately,” he said.
Beaumont Heath is just the latest entity sounding alarms about the rise of Covid-19 in Michigan, even as vaccinations rise.
Officials have said the state has seen a high proportion of more-contagious variants and that the variants are fueling the case spikes.
Michigan cities account for 9 of the 10 worst Covid-19 outbreaks in the country’s metropolitan areas, according to the latest Covid-19 Community Profile Report published by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the White House.
The state has averaged 7,870 new Covid-19 cases a day across the last week – far above the winter’s low average of 1,044 on February 20. It’s also around Michigan’s highest-ever levels, seen back in late November and early December, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Statewide hospitalizations also are way up. More than 4,230 Covid-19 patients were in Michigan hospitals on Tuesday – far above the winter low of 825 on February 22 and close to the peak of 4,305 on November 30, according to HHS data.
For Beaumont, keeping staffing at a sufficient level also is a challenge, as some employees are leaving because of pandemic-related stress, chief nursing officer Susan Grant said.
Nurses are “saddened and heartbroken by the loss and the toll this is continuing to take on young people, on families, on everyone,” Grant said.
Fauci on J&J vaccine: ‘Hopefully, we’ll get a decision quite soon’
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Thursday he hopes there will be a quick decision soon about whether the country will proceed with administering the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine after a recommended pause.
“Hopefully, we’ll get a decision quite soon as to whether or not we can get back on track with this very effective vaccine,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Congressional hearing.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended Tuesday that the country pause the use of the one-dose J&J vaccine over six reported US cases of a “rare and severe” type of blood clot, out of more than 6.8 million Americans who got the shot.
A day later, advisers to the CDC put off making any decision about recommendations for the vaccine, with members of the group saying they need more information.
Another meeting has been scheduled for a week from Friday.
“Even though it is a very low level, when you look at it, the number as of now, would be like less than one per million,” Fauci told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Thursday. “They did it out of an abundance of caution.”
The pause in the J&J vaccine, he said, gives public health officials a chance to make sure there are no other unreported cases and it will alert doctors to be on the lookout for these cases.
Officials making plans for vaccine boosters
The US is making plans should Covid-19 vaccines need booster doses, health officials said Thursday.
“We are planning for potential booster doses of vaccines, if they are needed,” Dr. David Kessler, chief science officer for the Biden administration’s Covid response team, told lawmakers at the congressional hearing.
“As with other vaccines, a subsequent dose may be desirable.”
Fauci said that there were several approaches that could boost the potency of a Covid-19 vaccine. One is to create a booster that would strengthen the original vaccine and would be strong enough to protect against variants. The other is to make a booster that would work against particular variants.
“The problem with that, is, that if you get more and more variants, that’s almost like playing whack-a-mole,” Fauci said. For now scientists are trying to figure out what the most dangerous variant is and to make a booster against that, he said.
J&J pause may cause delays, officials say
While scientists continue to look into the adverse events, state leaders and federal officials are working to adjust to the change.
The federal government is helping to get Americans who were scheduled for the J&J vaccine set up with another Covid-19 vaccine instead, and those changes may cause a drop in daily vaccination numbers, White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said Wednesday.
“However, I want to be clear that we have more than enough Pfizer and Moderna vaccine supply to continue working to accelerate the current pace of vaccination,” he said.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not implicated in the Johnson & Johnson pause, officials have said.
Federal allocations of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for next week are about 7% higher than they were this week, federal data shows.
And while state leaders said they have enough supply to stay on track with their vaccination operations, some expressed concern about the impact.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds called the pause a “surprising setback” for the state “at a time when our vaccine efforts are showing much progress, and because states weren’t informed in advance of the announcement, we were left to develop contingency plans in the moment for vaccine clinics scheduled yesterday and throughout the week.”
“Putting even one vaccine on hold is disappointing,” she added. “But ensuring a safe vaccination process, one that everyone can be confident in, will continue to be a top priority.”
Other officials in the US said the interruption could have a major impact on college students, who were key targets for getting the single-dose vaccine before leaving school at the end of the spring semester.
CNN’s Laura Ly, Miguel Marquez, Naomi Thomas, Anjali Huynh, Taylor Romine, Deidre McPhillips, Jen Christensen, Lauren Mascarenhas, Jacqueline Howard and Maggie Fox contributed to this report.