Why Michigan COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths arent climbing like case numbers — yet – Detroit Free Press

The signs point to one thing: Michigan is headed to a potentially dangerous place, again, when it comes ot COVID-19. 

New coronavirus case numbers in the state have spiked to levels higher than they were in March and April. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,826 new COVID-19 cases Friday — with a seven-day average of 1,655 daily cases — and 18 new deaths. 

The percentage of positive coronavirus tests is rising, too. The seven-day average climbed above 5% this week. 

Although there’s also been an uptick in hospitalizations and deaths, those statistics still haven’t reached anywhere near the the heights the state recorded in the early days of the pandemic, said Dr. Adnan Munkarah, Henry Ford Health System’s executive vice president and chief clinical officer.

In the first two weeks of April, nearly 1,000 people were hospitalized for treatment of the virus in the Henry Ford Health System’s six hospitals, he said. Today, there are 93 people hospitalized with COVID-19 at Henry Ford.

But that’s not a reason to feel at ease, Munkarah said.

Dr. Adnan Munkarah, Henry Ford Health System's executive vice president and chief clinical officer.

“We have seen this come up very fast in March and April, and this can do that (again) if we are not careful  and we don’t follow the measures that we think are protective,” he said.

That means wearing a mask when you leave home, staying away from others, avoiding large crowds, staying home when you’re sick, and hand-washing. 

“We are definitely seeing an increase in the transmission of the virus, and increased spread of the virus,” Munkarah said, explaining that those who seem to be contracting it most this fall are younger, healthier people who are less likely to have serious complications or need hospitalization.

As younger people have returned to schools and college campuses, started venturing out to restaurants and bars, “exercising their … freedom to kind of enjoy their social life,” the virus is spreading, he said. 

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Pandemic fatigue is also playing a role in the rising case numbers.  

“People are letting their guards down,” Munkarah said. People aren’t wearing their masks when they’re out, they’re not social distancing as much as they should, and they’re not avoiding large gatherings.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more people get together,” Munkarah said. “And now with the weather being colder, people are tending to be more doing more indoor activities and accordingly, being more exposed to the virus that we weren’t exposed to in March, April.”

His concern is that if these young people start to bring the virus home to older, more medically vulnerable adults, the state could see a crush of sick patients overwhelming hospitals in the state — as they did in metro Detroit in March and April in metro Detroit — and many more deaths. 

“If the infection starts spreading with our with our elderly population and more vulnerable populations, we are going to be in trouble.

That concern is exacerbated by the added pressure flu season could place on health care providers and hospitals, as the state could be hit with a “twindemic” of both a swell of influenza and COVID-19 infections. 

“We are starting to see some concerning patterns,” he said

People should get their flu shots now, he said, to try to protect themselves, and make plans to celebrate the upcoming holidays remotely. Even trick-or-treating at Halloween is an unnecessary risk, Munkarah said. 

“All you need is one person who has the virus and does not know it to transmit it from one person to the other and you have a major spread,” Munkarah said. “So this is the time where we need to be extremely careful and extremely thoughtful. … I do not think it is good idea for us to be to have people be in contact with each other for things that are not essential, that are not health-related.

Opting for in-person Thanksgiving this year, he warned “might spread a virus that might cause the death of a loved one.”

Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: kshamus@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.