Michigan Hospital Chief Medical Officers Urge Public to Help Address Alarming COVID-19 Situation


The following statement is made on behalf of chief medical officers of Michigan’s community hospitals.

One year ago, Michigan faced a frightening increase in COVID-19 cases as the winter holidays approached. In response to Gov. Whitmer’s call for limits on social gatherings, we collectively followed responsible and proven measures that reduced the spread of COVID-19, saved lives and protected our state’s healthcare system.

For the 2021 holiday season we are already approaching the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Michigan since the pandemic began. As of Sunday, Nov. 21, 3,785 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, including 784 in our intensive care units (ICUs). The vast majority of patients in the ICU and on ventilators are unvaccinated. In addition to these high numbers of COVID-19 patients requiring emergency care and hospitalization, we are seeing high numbers of patients with other medical conditions requiring care. This combination is straining or exceeding the capacity of emergency departments and hospitals across the state. We cannot wait any longer for Michigan to correct course; we need your help now to end this surge and ensure our hospitals can care for everyone who needs it.

Across the state, resilient and dedicated healthcare workers in hospitals stand ready to care for emergency medical needs, but the reality is most hospitals throughout the state have more patients in their emergency departments than they do available rooms and staff to care for them. This results in long wait times, patients being placed in hallways or conference rooms, and diverting patients away from a hospital because there is no physical room or medical staff available to accept more patients.

You may have seen reports that some hospitals are at a pandemic level red — which indicates the highest level in that facility’s emergency preparedness plan. We are extremely concerned because our best predictions are that COVID-19 patients will continue to increase during the weeks ahead as we enter the yearly flu season. At the same time, the need for care for heart disease, cancer and other diseases will continue at some of the highest rates we’ve seen in recent history.

The evidence shows that patients who receive monoclonal antibody therapy early have markedly lower rates of hospitalization and complications from COVID-19. Many hospitals have reprioritized staff and resources from ambulatory services such as testing, outpatient treatment or rehab to free up caregivers to dispense monoclonal antibody therapy and vaccines in the hope of reducing hospitalization and death. While these actions may lead to longer wait times for ambulatory services, it is important that patients who meet the criteria seek out monoclonal antibody therapy to reduce the chance of a hospital stay.

As the chief medical representatives of the healthcare systems in Michigan, we are asking all Michigan residents to recognize the following:

  • Hospitals are operating at contingency levels of care, which means waiting times are longer and staffing shortages are now the norm and not an exception.
  • This situation is a result of our ongoing pandemic response, the serious illness of non-COVID-19 patients, the increased length of stay of all patients, and the resulting high number of patients in Michigan hospitals.
  • Just as hospitals and the staff working inside are and have been working at capacity, our emergency medical services (EMS) are also stressed and overworked. There may be times when capacity in the system is not adequate to accommodate the usual response and speed of transport, especially for out-of-area transfers.
  • If the pressure on hospitals and EMS increases further, we all risk facing increasing delays and challenges in accessing care for everyone who needs emergency services and inpatient hospital care.

Knowing this situation, we call on everyone to do their part to lessen the pressure on the healthcare system:

  • If you are not already vaccinated, get your vaccine right away or complete your vaccine series. Find a location for vaccination at vaccine.gov. The evidence shows vaccines are effective at keeping people out of the hospital and off ventilators. Vaccines are free and available to those ages 5 and up at many pharmacies, doctors’ offices and health departments across the state.
  • If you are vaccinated, get a booster dose of vaccine, which is now approved for everyone ages 18 and above.
  • If you have questions about the vaccines, please reach out to your medical provider.
  • Carefully consider where you seek healthcare. A primary care office, virtual visit or urgent care may be the best accommodation as hospital and emergency departments are seeing high demand. Despite this, for emergency conditions such as stroke symptoms, chest pain, difficulty breathing or significant injury, you should still seek emergency care. Know that emergency departments are doing all they can to provide safe and timely access.
  • Practice physical distance at indoor events and gatherings, including the use of face masks and other protection.
  • If you are aware of a potential COVID-19 exposure, get tested and limit your interaction with others until you have a negative test and/or have passed the recommended quarantine period.
  • Recognize that hospital and EMS staff are shorthanded and under extreme pressure. Extend patience and thoughtfulness to those who are working the hardest to support and care for our family members and friends.

Our healthcare teams have worked tirelessly for the past 20 months to serve every community in our state. Now more than ever, they need your support.

MLive: Children 5 to 11 now eligible for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

MHA CEO Brian Peters

MHA CEO Brian PetersMLive published an article Nov. 3 on the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The article quotes MHA CEO Brian Peters on the value of the approval when it comes to protecting younger children from severe infection and reducing the overall spread of the disease.

“At a time when children’s hospitals throughout Michigan are strained due to high rates of respiratory illness, this approval will keep children safe and help reduce the burden on our hospitals and allow them to focus on their patients with non-COVID illnesses,” said Peters.

MHA Statement on CDC Approval of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine for Children Ages 5-11

Brian Peters

The following statement can be attributed to Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.
Brian Peters

The approval today of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is another significant milestone in combatting the spread of COVID-19. The new vaccine eligibility not only protects younger children from severe infection but reduces the likelihood of younger children infecting other vulnerable populations with the disease.

At a time when children’s hospitals throughout Michigan are strained due to high rates of respiratory illness, this approval will keep children safe and help reduce the burden on our hospitals and allow them to focus on their patients with non-COVID illnesses.

We encourage parents to contact their child’s physician office, their local health department or preferred health system for any questions they have and to schedule a vaccine appointment.

CEO Report — Healthy Communities, Healthy Economies

MHA Rounds Report - Brian Peters, MHA CEO

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”― Oscar Wilde

MHA CEO Brian PetersThroughout Michigan, hospitals are critical to their communities not only because of the services they perform, but because of their role as leading employers as well. Regardless of where you live, you very likely know someone who works in a community hospital or in the healthcare field. In fact, in 2018 one in every five employed people in Michigan were in positions directly or indirectly related to healthcare. In total, hospitals in our state provide 234,000 jobs, supporting family members, neighbors and other local businesses. Taken as a whole, healthcare provides more jobs than automotive manufacturing and education combined; as a result, when healthcare operations are impacted, there is a clear trickle-down impact throughout an entire community.

With a death toll that just passed the 20,000 mark, it is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound detrimental impact on the health of Michigan communities and has battered healthcare workers physically and mentally. The most pressing challenge today for the leaders of our member hospitals and health systems is clear: workforce sustainability — in other words, how to best support the front-line caregivers who are working so hard to provide care to our patients and communities and how to recruit and retain enough healthcare professionals to continue providing this care into the future. 

Our hospitals are operating at near-capacity levels due to high volumes of non-COVID-19 patients, many of whom delayed seeking care during the pandemic and are now presenting in the emergency department with higher acuity, requiring higher levels of care and longer lengths of stay. These patients are members of their local communities, serving as business owners, employees and customers. Much as hospitals are stretched thin due to higher volumes and limited staffing, so are our local businesses. The bottom line: hospital operations, public health, and economic vitality are all inextricably linked in our communities.   

Businesses of all stripes have been stretched to their limits over the past year and a half. From food service and hospitality to retail, manufacturing, academia and beyond, whole industries have been severely impacted by the pandemic due to supply and staffing shortages. While serving on the Michigan Economic Recovery Council during the beginning of the pandemic, I learned from some of Michigan’s top business leaders how significant the impacts were to their workforce, operations and bottom line. Many businesses have had to react by postponing specific service lines or production, reducing hours of operation, increasing prices or all the above. But there is one significant difference between our situation today as compared to the earlier stages of the pandemic: we now have a powerful tool in our toolbox that is proven to work and can help accelerate our return to normalcy. Of course, I am referring to the COVID-19 vaccine.   

Besides the obvious motivation to protect yourself from serious illness, hospitalization and death by following public health guidance and receiving the vaccine, there is a need to do so for the economic vibrancy of your local community. Regardless of political views, I can confidently say we all have shared goals of wanting to see our communities thrive, our children in school and our businesses profitable. When it comes to treating and preventing disease, we always look toward our healthcare experts to guide us on a path to recovery. The MHA Board of Trustees, as well as the clinical leaders within our membership, are unequivocally united when it comes to the importance of vaccinations and appropriate masking. We know these tools work, and the evidence from hospitalizations during Michigan’s spring and existing surges prove it, as the older age groups with the higher vaccination levels experienced smaller increases in hospitalizations than younger age cohorts. In fact, approximately 99% of all COVID-19 deaths have been unvaccinated individuals.

I’ve said this publicly for over a year, and I will say it again: whether a local, state or federal public health mandate exists or not, it does not change the fact that receiving a vaccine, wearing a mask, staying home when sick and practicing proper hygiene are the right things to do. Each of these measures reduces the risk of passing on a highly contagious and deadly virus and saves lives. What it also does is lead us closer to economic prosperity for our communities and allows our businesses to focus on what they do best. Our country’s forefathers established core democratic values as our society’s fundamental beliefs. Included is the common good, where we all should work together for the good of all. It is time we remember this principle for the betterment of our communities and economies.

As always, I welcome your thoughts. 

MHA/SBAM Press Conference Coverage

Nicole Linder

Nicole Linder, MD, chief hospitalist at OSF St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group.The MHA and the Small Business Association of Michigan hosted Sept. 9 a statewide press conference encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations and stressing the relationship between public health and the health of local economies.

Below is a collection of headlines from around the state that include quotes from the event.

Members with questions on COVID-19 efforts and resources should contact Ruthanne Sudderth, and any questions regarding media requests should be directed to John Karasinski at the MHA.

Hospitals, Businesses Urge Michigan Residents to get COVID-19 Vaccine as soon as Possible

“Healthy Communities, Healthy Economies” rely on the support of residents doing their part to help stop the pandemic

Michigan’s hospital and business leaders are calling upon residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible to keep their families and communities healthy, and residents working and businesses open.

Highlighting the experiences of hospitals and businesses across Michigan, the Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) and Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) today shared stories from hospitals and businesses across the state facing the current surge of COVID-19 driven by the more contagious delta variant.

Hospitals are once again operating at near-capacity levels, and businesses are still recovering from the pandemic’s impact on supply and staffing. As some of the largest employers in the state – providing more than 234,000 jobs – hospitals are too facing higher workloads with limited staffing, just as small businesses have been stretched to their limits over the past year and a half. Unlike the pandemic’s previous surges however, we now have the means to fight COVID-19: a safe and effective vaccine.

“Our member hospitals and health systems have been operating at crisis levels for more than 18 months. Yet many residents still think of ­­­hospitals as invincible when in fact our caregivers are exhausted, mentally, physically and emotionally. Hospitals and residents must have a two-way relationship: We’re here for you when you get sick, and we rely on your commitment to also keeping our community healthy so that we can treat those who are most in need of our services,” said MHA CEO Brian Peters. “Anyone who needs care should seek it in the appropriate setting. But we can avoid a lot of those trips to the hospital for COVID-19 if Michiganders get vaccinated now. This vaccine is highly effective at preventing hospitalization.”

While hospitals are leading employers in many Michigan communities, small businesses are at the heart of those communities. From food service and hospitality to retail, manufacturing, academia and beyond, entire industries have been severely impacted by the pandemic. Many businesses have had to postpone specific service lines or production, reduce hours of operation, increase prices and more.

“No matter what hardship we’ve faced during this pandemic, I can confidently say we all share the same goals of wanting to see our communities thrive, our children in school and our businesses profitable again,” said Rob Fowler, CEO of SBAM. “Nearly half of Michigan’s workforce are employed by small businesses. To make, and keep, our communities and economies healthy again, we each have the responsibility of getting vaccinated to end this pandemic.”

More than 5.2 billion people around the world, 205.9 million people in our nation, and 5.3 million Michiganders have received the COVID-19 vaccine. With approximately 99% of all COVID-19 deaths being in unvaccinated individuals, the vaccine has obvious protection from serious illness, hospitalization, and death. Among national clinical and medical associations and public health experts and researchers worldwide, there is unequivocal agreement about the importance of vaccinations and appropriate mask wearing.

“If more people don’t get vaccinated, the threat of a fourth surge in Michigan is very real,” said Geneva Tatem, MD, associate division head of pulmonary and critical care medicine, Henry Ford Health System. “I’ve seen far too many lives forever changed or lost during the pandemic. Today, we have an effective tool that can put us on a better path forward. For those who remain unvaccinated, you do not have the comfort of time any longer. Getting your shot is a matter of life or death.”

Michigan residents are encouraged to talk to their healthcare provider or visit Michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine to find the nearest vaccine to them.

Combating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Week of Aug. 9

MHA Covid-19 update

MHA COVID-19 Update imageThe MHA continues to keep members apprised of pandemic-related developments affecting hospitals through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates are outlined below.

Michigan Case Numbers and Hospitalizations Continue to Increase

Michigan reported over 3,100 new COVID-19 cases from this past Thursday and Friday, bringing the daily average of cases up to 1,564. Hospitalizations also continue to increase, with 889 confirmed hospitalizations statewide, 19 of which are pediatric. Over the last four weeks, 99% of test samples sequenced by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are the delta variant.

Members with data questions may contact Jim Lee.

Social Media Toolkit Available with Delta Variant Messaging, Immunization Awareness Posts and Vaccine FAQs

To help communicate messages around the delta variant, updated masking guidance, childhood immunizations and general COVID-19 vaccine information, the MHA has created a downloadable social media toolkit with posts and graphics for public use. Members are encourage to share the content on their own channels or engage through the MHA’s Twitter or Facebook. The toolkit and other COVID-19 resources can be found on the COVID-19 webpage of the MHA website. Members with social media questions may contact Lucy Ciaramitaro.

Headline Roundup: Michigan Hospitals Encourage COVID-19 Vaccination

covid cell

The MHA published a consensus statement Aug. 6 on behalf of Michigan hospitals and health systems that urges members of their communities to receive one of the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

Portions of the statement were included in stories by several news outlets across Michigan, including the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News and MiBiz.

“The vaccines are our best defense against this variant and the likelihood of future variants emerging. The vaccines are essential for us to stop COVID-19 and its future mutations,” the statement read. “We have an opportunity to make a difference in this public health crisis. Together, our actions will serve the public good, save lives and shorten the health and economic impact of the pandemic.”

Chris Mitchell Discuss Hospital Staffing Challenges with FOX 17

Chris Mitchell

MHA EVP Chris Mitchell is interviewed by FOX 17. Chris Mitchell, executive vice president, advocacy & public affairs, MHA, discussed staffing challenges impacting Michigan hospitals with FOX 17 Aug. 4.

The news segment focused on the CDC COVID-19 Reported Patient Impact and Hospital Capacity by State Timeseries, which reported five Michigan hospitals were experiencing critically low staffing. Mitchell discussed the stress and trauma healthcare workers experience while caring for COVID-19 patients and how that impact has led to burnout and healthcare workers leaving the hospital field. Mitchell also discussed steps hospitals have taken to address burnout and retain workers, while stressing the best way to help alleviate the pressure on hospital staff is to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.

“What we’ve seen is early retirements…we’ve seen some healthcare workers leave the acute care setting and go to home health or other industries where they can use their talents and not feel the stress and strain of dealing with this pandemic,” said Mitchell. “Particularly in some of our smaller communities these folks are caring for their friends, their neighbors, and that has a profound impact on individuals.”

Read the story

MHA, Michigan Hospitals and Health Systems Consensus Statement on Vaccinating our Communities

Marc McClelland MD

The following consensus statement is made on behalf of Michigan hospitals and health systems.

Hospitals and health systems across our great state of Michigan have banded together like never before for more than a year to combat the spread of COVID-19. Our healthcare workers have sacrificed their time, energy and health, all in the pursuit of protecting the communities we serve. Together, we have learned about this disease, how to treat it, and now, how we can prevent it.

The COVID-19 delta variant now accounts for more than half of the new COVID-19 cases in the United States. This means there is increased urgency to vaccinate our communities. The delta variant is the most contagious version of the coronavirus worldwide. It spreads about 225% faster than the original version of the virus and replicates at much higher levels inside the respiratory tract. New studies indicate the available vaccines are effective against the delta variant and could prevent the loss of thousands more loved ones. The vaccines are our best defense against this variant and the likelihood of future variants emerging. The vaccines are essential for us to stop COVID-19 and its future mutations.

We agree with the science and facts related to the vaccines and their effectiveness. As health organizations that care about the health of our teams and our communities, we support the science. We strongly recommend vaccination for everyone eligible. Further, we encourage people to have a conversation with their trusted healthcare provider if they have questions or concerns about the vaccine.

To date, more than 4.6 million Michiganders and more than 165 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. The vaccines have proven to be safe and effective, and their ability to save lives is evident.

The COVID-19 vaccine reduces the risk for hospitalization and death by more than 95%. Currently more than 99% of all deaths from COVID-19 infection are in unvaccinated persons. Vaccination also substantially reduces the risk of long-haul symptoms from COVID-19; approximately 20% to 30% of people with mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 will develop at least one long-haul symptom.

We have an opportunity to make a difference in this public health crisis. Together our actions will serve the public good, save lives and shorten the health and economic impact of the pandemic. Our dedication to caring for our communities starts long before its members become our patients. As health providers, and members of your community, we want to you stay healthy. The vaccine is safe and effective. The Michigan Health & Hospital Association and our member hospitals and health systems urge you not to wait; get vaccinated now.