Skip to Main

Hospitals Feeling Strain of Extended COVID-19 Surge

Screen Shot 2021 11 30 At 112617 Am

The state is facing its fourth COVID-19 surge since the start of the pandemic, but not all spikes are equal, and this one seems to be the worst.

In Michigan, the numbers are worse than any other state.

The first spike, at the beginning of the pandemic, reached up to 4,000 cases per day. That was bad at the time, but then we got to the Fall and the numbers skyrocketed up to 8,000 cases per day.

The third spike hit this spring when it again hit that 8,000 cases a day peak, and then it came back down.

When we look at the fourth surge, the current one, instead of seeing a one month up and a one month down trend, the numbers show a gradual 3 1/2 month growth to a peak, which may not even be the final peak. 

Statewide, it is not quite as high as the last two, but it’s lasting a lot longer and that’s causing even more stress on the hospital system that is already been trying to recover from the second and third spikes.

“That is exhausting,” said Dr. James Whelan, chief medical officer for Cadillac Munson, “When it only lasts for two weeks, that survivable. When it lasts for three months, that becomes untenable.”

Whalen said his hospital is seeing the highest COVID-19 numbers of the pandemic and it’s been this way for months.

“In terms of supplies, PPE, treatments, all of that, we can handle it,” said Whalen, “It’s the people that are the most exhausted by this.”

Nurses have been working 16 hour shifts before returning eight hours later for 12 more. Usually the lulls between the spikes allow for staffs to recharge and catch up on elective surgeries. They’ve been waiting for a lull for months.

“We are pushing those back and we’re terrified about the repercussions for that,” said Whalen, “But we don’t have a choice, literally there’s not a bed to put people in.”

Healthcare workers can better fight COVID-19 than they could a year ago but Whelan says once hospitalized, it’s probably too late for therapies. The average length of stay isn’t shortening.

“We do have some treatments that we didn’t have at the beginning but a lot of that is supportive care,” said Whalen, “This is your own body’s immune system fighting against this.”