Medical teams are exhausted. There is tremendous strain across our health care system due to the COVID-19 response and other demands our teams face to care for seriously ill patients.
CDC data shows that Michigan leads the nation in the spread of the COVID-19 virus and in the number of new COVID-19 cases. Positivity rates are above 20% across the region and over 600 cases per 100,000. This month, we saw the highest number of cases in the 5-11 age group since the pandemic started, and all schools in Kent County are reporting high transmission rates.
“We are seeing significant spread within households resulting in younger and sicker patients, and they’re unvaccinated,” said Andrew Jameson, MD, division chief of Infection Diseases and regional medical director of Infection Control for Mercy Health. “Last year we were seeing more elderly. This year we’re seeing twenty, thirty, and forty-year-olds in our intensive care units. We are putting people in their forties on ventilators, and it’s extremely worrisome.”
The large majority of admitted patients in hospitals across the state are unvaccinated, and the majority of cases in the country are the Delta variant.
“What’s important to note is that of all the COVID-19 patients on a ventilator, 100-percent of them are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Jameson. “Overall patients that are vaccinated tend to be older –- an average age of 72 — versus 57 years in unvaccinated patients. We are seeing these patients that have conditions that compromise their immune system or are admitted for other reasons.”
While the vaccine is extremely effective at preventing severe illness, hospital systems across the state are seeing breakthrough infections in those who are vaccinated.
“Especially in those with household members who are positive, it’s important to emphasize that – vaccines prevent death. Ninety-nine percent of COVID-19 deaths right now are in unvaccinated individuals.”
“We’re seeing this big push against masking, and we’re seeing younger kids bring it to their parents. It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said Dr. Jameson. “One thing we want to emphasize is that, if there is a household infection, it is never too late to isolate and mask to help control the spread of the virus. The more cumulative time spent together is what could result in spreading to an uninfected person in the household.”
Dr. Jameson notes that there are numerous ways to stay protected, including staying in separate rooms and avoid eating together. He also recommends wearing a tight-fitting surgical mask such as KN95 or N95, when spending time with the affected individual.
“We are seeing patients with a higher inoculum of COVID-19 after being infected by a family member. This is because the amount of sickness in their body increases with the amount of time they are spending near an infected person, especially when that person is in the same household,” said Dr. Jameson. “This is where a lot of our hospitalizations are coming from right now — from school age kids passing it to parents or grandparents.”
To help halt the spread of COVID-19, influenza, and other respiratory viruses we want to remind the community of these key practices to stay safe.
We cannot emphasize enough:
- Get Vaccinated: We continue to advocate for vaccination in all those eligible. It is safe and effective, especially at preventing severe disease and hospitalization. You can schedule your vaccine or booster HERE.
- Wear a mask
- Stay six feet away from others
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces
- Wash your hands often
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Clean and disinfect
- Monitor your health daily
“In mid-November I spent the week in the hospital with some severely ill patients, and it was difficult to see,” said Jameson. “Numbers are climbing, and people are extremely sick. We’ve seen people dying that didn’t need to. It’s much worse now than it has been in months.”
Dr. Jameson recently spoke with the Kent County Health Department about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine and how your body responds. See more here, and within the story for other informational videos.