GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Dr. Joneigh Khaldun stated Wednesday during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s press conference that COVID cases were rising again and officials were seeing more of a prevalence of the new variants. She warned that if cases continue to rise, then it’ll lead to more hospitalizations and deaths.
Other health officials agreed.
“We’ve seen some concerning trends first in percent positivity rate including today where in the past 24 hours our positive tests are at 7.9 percent. That's the highest it’s been since January 21, on a single daily basis,” said Spectrum Health’s Chad Tuttle during a Zoom interview Thursday afternoon. “So that has been consistently going up over about the past 10 days. That’s very concerning.”
Tuttle is the senior vice president of operations at Spectrum. He said they’re also seeing a rise in emergency room visits for people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
“We’re seeing about 150 people a day come to the emergency department right now,” Tuttle said. “We have seen an increase in the number of inpatient admissions. It’s been a little slighter in terms of the in-patient admissions but certainly the trend is concerning and something that we’re watching very closely.”
Dr. Adam London, director of the Kent County Health Department, said other hospitals were seeing the same increases, especially in southeast Michigan. In West Michigan, hospitals are experiencing a rise in COVID-positive patients.
He believes the rise could be due to the bitter cold weather in late-February.
“This virus really does well in those cold, dry environments when people go inside in closer proximity. Now, we’re a couple weeks past that so that virus had time to incubate where people were exposed,” Dr. London said. “We also know that there is a growing prevalence of some of these variants which are a little more contagious. That’s a factor that's happening right now. And, of course, people have COVID fatigue.”
Dr. London said that with the weather getting warmer people will head outdoors more frequently. However, he recommends people continue to follow CDC guidelines by masking up, washing your hands, and practicing social distancing.
“We do want people to engage in the community economically. We want to support businesses but we also want to be smart,” Dr. London said. “We know that we’re not through this pandemic yet. A lot of things are going our way but if we’re not careful, and if we don’t follow this recommendation, we could have a setback.”
Tuttle said the goal is to vaccinate 70 percent of the state, residents ages 16 and up. However, right now, only 10 percent are fully vaccinated. So, he too suggests everyone follow CDC guidelines.
“It would be a shame to see a spike in overall volumes right now, when we do have so much hope on the horizon,” Tuttle said.