'This is serious': Health officials worried about strain COVID-19 pandemic is putting on Michigan hospitals

An increase in COVID-19 cases is putting a strain on Michigan hospitals that is impacting even people who are not sick with the virus.

Right now, Michigan's COVID case rate is higher than this time a year ago. Health officials said the state is seeing an increase in cases after Thanksgiving that did not happen in 2020. The mortality rate is also rising.

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"This is serious," said Michigan Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel while discussing hospitalizations.

Hertel said people who are seeking care for other illnesses and injuries may have limited access to care because hospitals are so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

Data showed that excess deaths from all causes are up currently. Health officials said this is a signal that hospitals are struggling.

(Photo: MDHHS)

According to data from the state, the percentage of inpatient hospital beds that are occupied by COVID patients is at an all-time high. 

This week, 21.5% of beds were occupied by COVID patients. This is the first time the percentage has broke 20%. The number of people hospitalized with COVID has been rising for 20 weeks, officials said.

Some hospitals are canceling procedures during this spike in COVID cases.

"At Michigan Medicine, we are continuing to cancel surgeries because we just don’t have the beds. This week alone we canceled more than 40 cases. These are heartbreaking decisions," University of Michigan Health President Dr. David Miller said earlier this week.

The state has dispersed ventilators to hospitals and has asked for more from a federal stockpile, health officials said.

Some Michigan hospitals are also receiving help from Department of Defense teams. However, Hertel said there aren't additional teams available to assist right now.

Hertel urged people who are unvaccinated to get the COVID-19 vaccine. She said ¾ of people hospitalized with the virus are not vaccinated. 

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As of Friday, 56% of Michiganders are fully vaccinated. Hertel said the state vaccine rate is below the national average.