Munson Holds Virtual COVID Press Conference Tuesday

Vaccination rates are still a concern in northern Michigan for Munson Healthcare, with the number of people still not vaccinated and inpatient cases high.

Munson Healthcare hosted a virtual press conference to provide a regional COVID-19 update and answer questions.

Dr. Christine Nefcy, Chief Medical Officer for Munson Healthcare, says that Northern Michigan region still has a higher positivity rate than the state average. The 14-day percentage for Northern Michigan being 17.2 percent and the state being 11.3 percent.

“The good news is that’s been steady over the last couple of days we have been seeing a steady increase and this is exactly the same as it was the last time we checked,” says Dr. Nefcy. “Still too early to tell a trend line on that one but I will take the good news that it has remained unchanged since the last update.”

Emergency room staff have been busy with the number of inpatient COVID-19 cased at Munson Healthcare the past few months. But the number of inpatient COVID positive cases have remained somewhat unchanged since the last update on October 12. The daily COVID positive inpatient cases are at 71 percent now, as opposed to 74 percent on October 12.

“We’re pretty close to where we were in the last surge,” says Dr. Nefcy. “Our current number of patients is lower . We do think that is in large part because of the success of the vaccinations that we’ve done.”

Still, the vast majority of patients in the hospital with COVID are not vaccinated.

Sixty-two percent of residents in Munson Healthcare’s coverage area are vaccinated.

In Grand Traverse County, COVID-19 case numbers and trends are increasing since the summer. But in the past week have been declining. They are averaging 33 cases a day. Cases in children are at 12 percent. In all age groups, 74 percent have started the vaccination series and 70 percent have completed. It’s one of the highest rates in the state.

“We saw a pretty significant upward trend in September and October,” says Wendy Hirschenberger, M.P.H, Health Officer for Grand Traverse County Health Department. “With school age cases increasing and the number of deaths in October, it may be the highest we’ve seen total ever during this pandemic.” Hirschenberger corrected saying December 2020 may have been the highest.

District Health Department #10 is seeing the same numbers. Cases are decreasing over the past month but still high since the spring and summer. The case positivity rate in that area is still higher than the state average.

After the press conference the FDA endorsed the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 to 11. Dr. Jennifer Morse, Medical Director for DHD #10 says getting children vaccinated will help in the fight against COVID-19.

“Over this surge the age group that has had the highest case rates has been 9 to 19 years-old so anything we can do to help reduce case rate for each age group will have a tremendous impact. ,” says Dr. Morse. “I do feel that it’s an important component to getting our herd immunity to where it needs to be to get the pandemic ended.”

Children are not at high risk for symptoms or death but can still transmit the virus.

Munson also addressed the vaccine mandate for staff. All staff must be vaccinated for COVID-19 by January 7th unless exempt for religious or medical reasons.

Other healthcare networks have seen many staff leave because of the mandates, but it’ not a large concern for Munson.

“Most of the people through other organizations that went through this did not see large numbers of people leave the organizations once it came down to the processes they have in place,” says Dr. Nefcy. “We’re hopeful that our staff will continue to follow the science.”

Currently 74 percent of all staff are fully vaccinated.

Now, anyone who is immunocompromised and had the initial  two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine can get a third dose 28 days after receiving the second dose. After six months, people qualify for a booster if you meet certain criteria.

People are also encouraged to get their flu vaccines along with their COVID vaccines.

If you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine speak to your doctor and visit Munson Healthcare’s website for general questions.