'I think it's going to get worse.' Michigan's thumb hit hard by COVID surge

Posted at 7:11 PM, Apr 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 23:26:59-04

SANILAC COUNTY (WXYZ) — In Sanilac County, they're on fire with COVID-19. One out of every three people tested for the virus has it.

"The hot spot started in our area in the tip of the thumb," said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

If you want to know where we’re going with COVID-19, Mayor Duggan says just look north. The surge that’s filling up our hospitals first started in the thumb.

"It is going to get worse, there is no doubt that that wave is going to continue to spread down into our city and we have got to protect ourselves," Duggan said.

Dr. Mark Hamed is the medical director for Sanilac County and seven others in the region.

"It's a matter of calling every facility, seeing if you have beds available, being put on a list," Hamed said.

The few ICU beds they have up north are full. So finding a place to put seriously ill patients can literally take all day.

"I was on a shift Monday and it took me about 17 hours to transfer one patient down to one of the metro Detroit hospitals," Hamed said. "I tried literally a 100-mile radius from Sandusky."

Up in Sandusky, there are signs that some have given up fighting the virus. This one posted outside a restaurant says, "If you aren’t wearing a mask, we’ll assume you have a medical condition. Come inside."

"I’m a cashier at Walmart and they don’t (wear masks)," said Brennan Osborn. "Some people come through with masks. Some people don’t."

Osborn works in town. His mom, sister and grandparents have already been vaccinated but he hasn’t been. He says he wants to wait.

"I just think it’s new," he said. "That’s my feeling on it. It’s too new."

Vaccine hesitancy is very real in Sanilac County. Twenty-eight percent of county residents have received at least one dose already. Compare that to Oakland County where more than 40% have. 7 Action News talked to barber Mark Heberling as he gave a haircut without a mask. He also had no plans to get the vaccine.

"Why would I," Heberling questioned. "With an unproved whatever? They haven’t proved that this stuff works one bit."

Of course, the vaccines have been studied and proven extremely effective at preventing infection and severe illness. But convincing people of that could be easier said than done.

"I think it's going to get worse after the next week or two," Hamed said. "I really do."