Local doctors concerned with upward trend of new COVID cases

Posted at 5:44 PM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 19:13:06-04

WEST MICHIGAN — Michigan set a record for new cases of COVID-19 in 2021 again on Thursday at 5,224.

It’s an upward trend that has local doctors concerned, but they said the bigger issue is if we start to see hospitalizations creep up too, something we’re already starting to see.

“We had a pretty good lull for January and February and started to see it increase in March,” said Dr. Josh Kooistra, the chief medical officer for Spectrum Health West Michigan.

It’s where we find ourselves now.

“When we look at the graphs of positivity and our inpatient census, they are matching up very closely with what we saw in the fall, so we are concerned that is this a third kind of peak that we are going to see, or a third surge that we’re going to see? So, we’re taking this situation very seriously, “ said Dr. Kooistra.

He added that hospitalizations are going up too.

“Over the last two weeks our inpatient census has actually doubled, so we’ve gone from about 45 inpatients up to 90,” he said.

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Those numbers are much lower for Mercy Health Muskegon with just ten inpatients since Thursday morning.

“I wouldn’t be surprised that if in the next week or a few weeks from now, we start seeing a rise in those cases,” said Dr. Claudia Jarrin, the director of infection prevention at Mercy Health Muskegon.

Dr. Jarrin said what’s different from our fall spike is the average age of those getting sick and vaccination efforts.

“It’s great to know that a quarter of our population here in Muskegon has received the vaccine, so that’s great, and especially a big percentage of our older population who are over 65 have received the vaccine,” she said. “So I think certainly this has an impact in our hospitalizations, because we all know those who are older are at higher risk for moderate to severe disease, which translates in hospitalizations.”

Both doctors said that increased travel, COVID fatigue and variants are all contributing to the spike.

“I think the last I checked, we were up to almost 1,000 identified cases of it in the state of Michigan. We know that it is more communicable, or easier to spread, from person to person, and so that certainly is in play,” said Dr. Kooistra when talking about the B.1.1.7 variant.

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While warmer weather is almost here in West Michigan, doctors worry that if this trend continues, the state will have to implement more restrictions yet again.

“It’s kind of a race with vaccines. We need to get vaccines in as many people as possible, and my hope is that we won’t have to have those restrictions in place,” Dr. Kooistra said.

Dr. Jarrin warned, “I still think that we need to be vigilant and very cautious. We still need to follow the infection prevention measures, including masks usage, including hand hygiene, and keeping your distance.”

All Michiganders 16 and older become eligible for the vaccine on April 5, but you’re encouraged to sign up right now to get your name in the system.

Visit or visit Spectrum Health and Mercy Health to sign up.

MDHHS also released a statement to FOX 17 regarding any potential restrictions. That statement is below:

“The presence of more infectious variants, such as the B.1.1.7 variant, threatens our progress in control of the epidemic, and MDHHS will be monitoring data closely.

"Our goal is to reengage while reducing public health risk, which is why we move slowly to maintain progress and momentum with thoughtful public health measures.

"We will continue to monitor the data to make decisions including three key metrics: case rates, percent positivity, and hospitalizations. It is critical that we not let up now and remind Michiganders to continue to mask up, wash their hands, social distance, get tested, and get vaccinated as soon as it is available to them.”

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