Kent County prepares for surge in COVID-19 cases


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., (WOOD) — While the number of new daily COVID-19 cases across the state of Michigan have been on the decline, cases in Kent County are expected to rise.

The Kent County Health Department says cases have been steadily ramping up since the beginning of April. In less than three weeks, the department says the number of new daily cases have nearly quadrupled. 

On April 1, there were 11 new daily cases. On April 20, there were 40 new daily cases reported.

The health department says the heightened numbers are due, in part, to increased access to testing. They also say it is clear the number of cases are spreading.

“The amount of testing has increased and so we would expect that we’re going to see additional cases, but it’s also true that the actual prevalence of the illness is increasing in the community as well,” said Dr. Adam London with the Kent County Health Deptartment.

London says several prediction models have West Michigan COVID-19 cases peaking in mid-May, while others predict later in the summer months.

“If we assume that everyone maintains the status quo with sheltering in place and hygiene and social distancing, then we’re looking at a peak probably about a month from now. Some models have it later into June and that’s a peak that would seriously challenge our hospitals,” London said.

Both Spectrum Health and Mercy Health in Grand Rapids say they’ve seen a significant drop in the number of the patients using their in-person services.

“A lot of our activity over the last few weeks has been geared toward planning and starting to really see our first patients who have COVID-19 and learn from those experiences,” said Chief Medical Officer of Mercy Health Dr. Matt Biersack.

Though there’s no way to know exactly how many cases will make up the peak or when it will happen, health officials say they’ll be prepared for a situation as extreme as what’s happening in Detroit. 

“We know exactly how many ICU beds we can turn out before our capacity is reached. We know how many ventilators we have,” said Dr. Joshua Kooistra, chief medical officer for Spectrum Health. “We have a lot of capacity to accommodate a surge, if one occurs and when one occurs

Health officials say as state legislators work to reopen the state, there is concern that it may result in a more severe peak in cases in West Michigan.

“It’s so difficult to predict what will happen both before and after any loosening of restrictions takes place. We are anticipating that we will continue to see COVID-19 patients for months to come,” Biersack said.

Both Mercy Health and Spectrum say they don’t expect a shortage of supplies if and when a surge occurs.

The health department says there’s a tough road ahead.

“I keep hearing about safe versus non-safe and I think it’s important for us to realize, we’re not ever going to get to a point where we can say there is zero risk, and yet we have to maintain those essential services,” London said.

The health department says despite potential changes to the stay home and social distancing orders, people will likely need to continue being vigilant through the end of the year to prevent further spread.


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