GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — COVID-19 cases are straining or local hospitals across West Michigan. From Zeeland, to Ludington, to Grand Rapids, more and more cases are coming in.
Doctor Shelly Schmidt says they're preparing for things to get even worse in coming weeks, and that everyone must change their behavior now in order to save lives.
With the increase in cases, comes more deaths.
“At this point, we have so many COVID patients coming in, while I might ordinarily in a week, write two death certificates, in my ICU week, I’m writing two death certificates daily right now just on my shift,” Schmidt said.
Those deaths are coming from all different ages of people.
“I’m writing death certificates on 47-year-olds, on 24-year-olds, on 62-year-olds, in addition to people in their 70s and 80s," Schmidt said.
Dr. Schmidt says the worst thing people can do right now is gather in small groups of people from multiple households indoors.
“When we are sitting here talking together, we are exhaling at least a gallon of air every minute. So if I put 8 people around a dinner table, for an hour…we’re talking 480 gallons of exhaled air, moving around that table,” Dr. Schmidt said.
That's the easiest and worst way to spread the virus, Schmidt says.
“So if one of those people, is very early in the disease course, and has COVID, every single person at that table is significantly exposed. Having these indoor gatherings is so much more risky, then when we could keep things outdoors, distanced, and masked. Because those are layers of protection,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt says West Michigan is rapidly approaching a near 20% positivity rate of COVID cases. This summer, the rate was around 3%.
She says the hardest part about all of this, is knowing these deaths can be prevented if people stop gathering and use appropriate precautions.
Schmidt's warning comes as Kalamazoo hospitals say they're seeing an unexpected number of new COVID-19 patients and Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids tightened their COVID testing requirements as a new supply shortage grows.
“One of the most devastating things to have to witness as a healthcare worker, is watching a family or listening to a family, trying to manage the fact, that their grandparent, their matriarch, their patriarch, dies…because of one of these celebratory occasions,” Schmidt said.