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Munson drops to red pandemic level for first time in history as wave hits region

Munson Healthcare has gone red in its pandemic response plan, the first time in the history of the hospital system it has entered its most severe phase. The red level is characterized by an “overwhelming number of local cases beyond the capacity of the health system” and means that COVID-19 care will be prioritized, some services (such as elective surgeries and sleep disorders) will be reduced and hours of operation may change. The move comes as a wave continues to hit northern Michigan, with Grand Traverse County dropping from an average of 29 new daily COVID-19 cases in September to 49 in November and 24 patients dying in hospitals in Munson. over the past two weeks.

While COVID-19 numbers are generally down across the country, the reverse is true in Michigan. Positivity rates and hospitalizations continue to rise steadily, while northern Michigan’s positivity rate is still higher than the state average, Munson Healthcare medical director Christine Nefcy said on Tuesday during ‘a press conference. The average 14-day Munsons test positive rate is 17.9%, while the statewide rate is 13%. Nefcy said that a crucial difference between the current push and the previous pushes is that in the past pushes “were pretty fast … this one was longer and a bit flatter, which obviously has an impact. quite important on the organization of health “. Munson experienced a 22.2% test positivity rate on Sunday, the highest on record at any time during the pandemic.

In the past two weeks, the number of patients hospitalized at Munson Healthcare has increased from 71 to 99, including 56 patients currently hospitalized at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City. “We have made the decision to take our stage of responding to the pandemic to red … not only because of the COVID cases, but also the high acuity that we are seeing in other patients as well as staff restrictions,” he said. explained Nefcy. Nefcy said children returning to school were a major contributor to new cases, with up to 20% or more of new cases coming from children. While Munson Medical Center Pediatrics provided 100 hours of inpatient care in October 2020, that number jumped to 900 hours in October 2021. There are “more patients, who are staying longer than a year ago.” , according to Nefcy.

Two weeks ago, TCAPS so far had 134 school-related cases for the school year, a number that included both students and adults and reflected a handful of duplicates, as one positive individual who visits multiple buildings is counted as an exposure to each of these buildings. That figure rose to 189 school-related cases this week, including 11 new cases on Tuesday. Statewide, there were more than 201,000 confirmed cases of COVID among those 19 and under last week, and 20 deaths reported among those aged 10 to 19. More than 450 children under 12 are infected with the virus every day. The University of Michigan School of Public Health found that the viral spread is 62% higher in schools without a mask warrant than those with masking requirements.

Nefcy said the vaccines becoming available this month for children aged 5 to 11 is “exciting” news to fight the tide, adding that local appointments “are already filling up very quickly.” Children’s vaccines, which contain one-third the dose of an adult vaccine, are available at many pediatrician offices and the Grand Traverse County Department of Health, which quickly booked its first appointment list. for this week but plans to open another 400 online appointments. Wednesday at 10 a.m. The Department of Health aims to offer 1,200 total appointments every 5 to 11 years before Thanksgiving, according to health worker Wendy Hirschenberger. Pharmacies including CVS, Meijer and Walgreens are also making appointments for children, and Munson is accepting names on a wait list for pediatric immunization clinics at 231-935-8125.

Hirschenberger said the Health Department is seeing numbers of outbreaks similar to Munson’s, including a 40% increase in cases in the past eight days. In September, the average number of new county cases per day was 29; this figure rose to 37 in October and 49 in November. “We are currently seeing a slightly more dramatic increase for Grand Traverse County,” Hirschenberger said. “So far November is actually heading more towards the highest numbers we’ve seen, which were back in April 2020. So we’re not heading in the right direction at all at this time.” The county’s testing positivity had remained in the 10-12% range for several weeks, Hirschenberger said, but is now approaching 15%.

Vaccination rates for Grand Traverse County are now 68.6% initiated and 64.4% completed. Full vaccination rates are generally highest in older populations and lowest in younger populations. For example, 88.13 percent of residents in the 75 and over age group are fully vaccinated, while only 50.11 percent of those in the 12 to 15 age group are fully vaccinated. Hirschenberger noted that vaccination percentages across the county have dropped slightly because the health department now includes the 5-11 age group in the vaccination demographics.

In Munson, nearly 80% of staff and 90% of providers are now vaccinated, according to Dianne Michalek, director of communications. She noted that due to the release of new federal guidelines last week regarding immunization mandates for large employers and healthcare providers, Munson is stepping up her deadline for employees to receive their first dose of vaccine or else. risk being made redundant from January 7 to December 5. She added that a deadline has also been extended for employees to request waivers, requests that will be reviewed by a panel of experts on an individual basis. “We’re going to be working this month to see how far we can move the needle on this (employee vaccination rate),” Michalek said.

When asked why northern Michigan is seeing an increase when much of the rest of the country is seeing a drop in cases, Dr Christopher Ledtke – infectious disease specialist at Munson Healthcare – noted that “geographic pockets Have seen increases throughout the pandemic and cited the high transmissibility of the Delta variant as fueling the current surge. Other health experts have speculated that states like Florida and Texas have experienced summer flare-ups as people move indoors to escape the intense heat, while Michigan is currently experiencing a similar surge as residents move indoors for the fall and children return to school.

While unvaccinated people accounted for 93.1% of COVID cases, 90.7% of hospitalizations and 90.5% of deaths in Michigan between January and October, Ledtke noted that the decrease in vaccine immunity is a “legitimate” problem which could also affect the number of cases. Ledtke encouraged all residents eligible for booster shots to get them, saying studies have shown they dramatically reduce cases of breakthroughs. He predicted that the availability of boosters will be expanded nationwide in the coming weeks. “Definitely before the holidays it will be something any adult can get,” he said. Health experts also urged residents on Tuesday to get their flu shots as soon as possible. A possible severe flu season could be ahead, according to the CDC, with many more Americans traveling and meeting this year than in 2020 and protocols like masking and social distancing “are simply not in place anymore.” Nefcy said.


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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.