The state today reported more than 4,500 additional COVID-19 cases, continuing recent increases in cases that have caused hospitalization rates to spike in Michigan, particularly among younger people.
The Michigan Health & Hospital Association said today that hospitalizations increased 633 percent from March 1 to March 23 for people 30 to 39 years old, and 800 percent for adults between 40 and 49.
At the same time, hospitalization rates declined 37 percent for people 80 and older, reflecting a greater vaccination rate among the older population and the effectiveness of vaccines, according to the MHA. Nearly 45 percent of Michigan residents 80 and older have been fully vaccinated.
As Michigan prepares to expand vaccine eligibility April 2 to anyone 16 and older, the MHA urges vigilance with safety protocols: wearing face masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds and washing hands often.
“Michigan is making progress at ultimately defeating the COVID-19 pandemic through increasing vaccination rates, but the war is not yet over,” said Gary Roth, chief medical officer at the MHA.
“Now is not the time to let our guard down and risk contracting COVID-19 with more contagious variants emerging and vaccines becoming widely available,” Roth said. “You must continue to take preventive measures even after you’re vaccinated because it takes at least two weeks for a vaccine’s full protection to kick in following the last dose, and it will take time to vaccinate everyone.”
As of Monday, more than 2.4 million residents had been vaccinated, or 29.6 percent of the state’s population.
Not following safety measures even as the vaccination rate keeps rising “is not only dangerous to our health, but hurts our economy and delays when in-person activities such as returning to work can occur with minimal restrictions,” MHA CEO Brian Peters said in a statement. “It will still take a few more months to vaccinate everyone, which is why we have to do everything in our power to slow the current growth. While you wait your turn for your safe and effective vaccine, mask up, practice social distancing and wash your hands.”
At the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Health Care Summit on Tuesday, Mercy Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Matt Biersack attributed the increase in positive test rates lately to the possible presence of coronavirus variants that spread more easily.
In-classroom instruction and school events could also cause more spread of COVID-19 to younger populations.
“So, we’re concerned about not only variant presence, but we’re concerned about the fact that we’re just seeing more transmission among young people. More schools are sort of back, schools are playing again, and so this presents just an avenue for spread, for sure.”
At Spectrum Health, the average age of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had been about 65 years old. In the last couple of weeks, it was 53 years old, Chief Medical Officer Joshua Kooistra said.
“We’re seeing a younger demographic,” Kooistra said.
The only age group not experiencing an increase in hospitalizations or positive test rates were people 70 and older, which shows that vaccines are working and the focus earlier on vaccinating older, more vulnerable populations, Kooistra said.
The additional 4,554 COVID-19 cases the state reported Wednesday brings the statewide total of confirmed cases since the pandemic began a year ago to 637,645. Michigan’s death toll today grew by 16 to 15,935 in the past year.
As vaccinations become more available, and as some restrictions loosen in Michigan and around the U.S. and vaccine eligibility opens further, medical officers for health systems say the task now is to ensure that vaccines are administered equitably, said Dr. Ronald Grifka, chief medical officer at Metro Health-University of Michigan Health. He also pushed for continuing to educate people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines in preventing COVID-19.
“The more people we get vaccinated the better we’ll be,” he said. “This is how we’re going to get back to normal living.”