GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — By Monday afternoon, Spectrum Health announced that they had 156 hospitalizations due to COVID-19.
President and CEO Dr. Darryl Elmouchi said that’s the highest doctors have ever seen it. And, he fears it could get worse.
“We actually hit a record late last week and we’re now 80 percent higher than the record late last week and in the spring,” Dr. Elmouchi said during a Zoom interview. “So far, higher than we’ve seen in West Michigan since the pandemic began.”
Dr. Elmouchi said they’re now testing 3,000-4,000 people a day. However the percent of positive tests are growing. For months, the percentage was at one or two percent. On Sunday, it was at nine percent.
“We’re seeing our numbers truly explode,” Dr. Elmouchi said. “And I use that word very specifically because right now we’re truly on the cusp of numbers that our community can manage and numbers that befell cities like Detroit early in the pandemic.”
Dr. Elmouchi added that he believes the numbers stem from people remaining indoors because of the cold temperatures outdoors. The CDC stated last week that most transmission now occur in small gatherings.
“I think there’s so much fatigue for masking, for social distancing, for all the simple things that we could do that, while they’re not fun, clearly have been proven to prevent COVID from spreading,” he said.
Should numbers continue to skyrocket, Spectrum is prepared to handle it, he said. They’ve been prepping for months for a second surge in positive cases and they have enough PPE to endure it. They’ve also created more drive-thru testing sites and created areas in the hospital where they solely treat COVID patients.
However, they’d like to keep those numbers as low as possible.
“If those numbers escalate dramatically then we have to start really changing some of our operations and that’s what we’re trying not to do.” Dr. Elmouchi said. “We want to keep caring for everyone who has heart attacks and strokes and accidents and so forth to the best possible. It’s been shown that if you really defer a lot of that care, you can cause harm as well.”
He said the goal is to care for all their patients and their specific needs. He recommended people wear masks as often as possible to help curb the spread of it. They’re seeing people of all ages get infected with the disease, from elderly men and women to the young and healthy.
“I have to say it really strikes me to the core as a physician,” Dr. Elmouchi said about those who don't believe that the disease is real or being exaggerated. “All I have to do, and I did this morning, was walk through our hospital and see people and their families suffering for what is really a terrible and confusing disease. It is not a hoax. There should not be spin on a disease that kills people.”