COVID numbers still rapidly rising in our region
Local healthcare officials reported on Tuesday, April 13, during a weekly press conference hosted by Munson Healthcare that COVID-19 case numbers continue to increase in northern Michigan, and overall use of one of the three available coronavirus vaccines is being suspended.
“We continue to have an increase,” said Dr. Christine Nefcy, Munson Healthcare Chief Medical Officer. “At the state as well as our regional level we have seen a pretty rapid increase in the number of COVID cases that we are seeing. Our 14-day average today on a rolling two-week average is the highest we’ve seen it at 17.5 percent. We have been there for the last two days.”
“The increase in cases in our community has also led to an increase in the number of inpatients that we have. We currently have 85 positive COVID patients across the Munson Healthcare system. We have had also with this latest surge slight increase in the number of employee positives, certainly not as many as we saw with the surge before the vaccine was in place, but we still continue to see a small number of employees test positive as well,” Dr. Nefcy said. “We have seen some of the highest numbers that we’ve seen during this entire (pandemic) with this most recent surge.”
Munson Healthcare officials said visitations at their facilities continue to be very limited due to the current surge.
“We have higher percent positivity, hospitalizations, new cases. These are the highest we’ve seen so it’s hard to imagine that it’s almost exactly 13 months since our first case in this area and we’re as bad as we’ve ever been,” said Dr. Christopher Ledtke, Infectious Disease, Munson Healthcare. “This thing is raging right now and that’s for a couple reasons.”
Munson Healthcare officials said the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant is one of the main reasons for the current COVID-19 spike.
“We have a significant amount of variant spread. We suspect that it’s very widespread and probably the dominant variant in our region right now is the UK variant, which you’ll also see it as the B.1.1.7 variant in the news,” Dr. Ledtke said. “In addition to this we have restrictions that were relaxed in early March, so the combination of relaxed restrictions – opening up of indoor dining, bars, sports, schools, things like that – led to what’s now an active surge in our state.”
“In some ways it’s almost like a new pandemic. It’s a very different virus in how it acts. It’s about 50 to 75 percent more contagious than the non-mutated strain, so in a susceptible population like our young folks in particular who aren’t vaccinated, you’ll see that it’s spreading rapidly,” Dr. Ledtke said.
Munson Healthcare officials said hospitalizations are tending to be younger people now that a large portion of the older population is vaccinated.
“The state as well as the CDC did recently come out and suggest that Michigan pause on athletics as well as school going virtual for two weeks after spring break and I know that there was a lot of pushback, specifically to health departments as well as overall to kind of what people view as that shutdown,” Dr. Nefcy said.
(On Friday, April 9, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and other state officials asked Michigan high schools to pause sports and in-person learning for two weeks, specifically adding that the requests were “not orders, mandates, or requirements.” Grayling High School opted to continue with sports and face to face learning.)
Dr. Nefcy said people should continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing and continue other mitigation efforts.
“If your child is sick or you are sick please don’t go to school or to work. If you do have any symptoms at all please get tested,” Dr. Nefcy said.
Healthcare officials also discussed the suspension of one of the three COVID-19 vaccines during Tuesday’s press conference.
Dr. Nick Torney, Infectious Disease, Munson Healthcare, said use of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been suspended by state and federal agencies because of a rare blood clot issue that has affected one in one million of those who have received it. Dr. Torney said there are no reports of the issue associated with the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Dr. Torney said anyone who has recently received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should monitor for the following side effects for three weeks: severe headache, severe abdominal pain, leg pain, shortness of breath.
“We will adjust and we will continue to vaccinate with what we have,” Dr. Nefcy said.