Beaumont Health scrambling with hundreds of virus cases
DETROIT (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday again pleaded with Michigan residents to stay at home to rein in the coronavirus while the state’s chief medical executive said hospitals with empty beds were stepping up to ease the burden on overwhelmed medical centers. They spoke to reporters Thursday, 2 1/2 days after businesses were supposed to shut down unless they provide certain essential services.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said hospitals in southeastern Michigan, where the coronavirus cases are most numerous, are “at or near capacity.” She said some hospitals outside the region were willing to set aside 10% of their bed capacity to help out.
Indeed, by the end of the day, Beaumont Health said its hospitals were swamped with 650 patients who had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and more than 200 with tests pending. It said it would transfer more people to its hospital in Wayne and get help from other health care providers.
“The number of patients coming to our emergency rooms continues to grow rapidly,” Beaumont CEO John Fox said.
Khaldun said Michigan is “probably a few weeks out” from hitting a peak in coronavirus cases. The state reported nearly 2,900 cases by Thursday and 60 deaths, both ahead of Wednesday’s statewide numbers.
Wayne County, home to Detroit, accounted for nearly half of the cases. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, called Wayne a “hot spot” nationally and said she was concerned the county was “having a more rapid increase.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, such as pneumonia, and death.
Henry Ford Health System said it had nearly 400 coronavirus-related patients at five hospitals Thursday morning, although the numbers can swiftly change.
Whitmer said her order that people stop gathering and keep at least 6 feet from each other at places like grocery stores was a command, not a recommendation.
“It doesn’t mean inviting 10 of your closest friends over for dinner. ... This disease cannot spread if we’re not out and about,” she said.
Whitmer said the vast majority of businesses are “doing the right thing” and keeping their workers home in compliance with her order, which kicked in Tuesday. Grocers, restaurants preparing carry-out food, banks and gas stations can remain open.
“If you’re not a life-sustaining business, you’re in violation of the law and you’re needlessly exposing your employees to COVID-19,” the governor said. “You’re needlessly endangering our communities by putting more pressure on a health care system that is very close to the maximum already.”
Grand Traverse County, which has only three cases, urged people to self-quarantine for two weeks and avoid grocery stores if returning from hot spots, such as Detroit or New York. Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers was blunt, urging cooped-up people to skip a trip to their northern Michigan cottage.
“Our health care systems are having a hard enough time here dealing with this virus to challenge them further,” Carruthers said on Facebook.
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Whitmer made an appeal for hospital gowns, ventilators, hand sanitizer, masks, gloves and thermometers. She said a recent shipment of protective wear from the federal government “was not enough for a full shift” at a hospital.
Separately, the governor said she has asked President Donald Trump to declare a disaster in Michigan like he has in other states, which would trigger food aid and money for rental assistance and temporary housing, among other needs.
Rep. Tyrone Carter, a Detroit Democrat who voted last week on virus-related bills, has the COVID-19 virus but is doing well, said House Democratic Leader Christine Greig. There are questions about the House’s ability to meet, and how many lawmakers will have to self-quarantine.
House Speaker Lee Chatfield said anyone who was within 6 feet of Carter during the incubation period should monitor themselves for symptoms.
Eggert reported from Lansing.