GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan hospital leaders are calling on Michiganders to get back to basics to prevent a continuation of the “exponential increase” of COVID-19 in the state.
Leaders from five health care systems, in addition to the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, made an urgent plea Thursday morning on a joint virtual news conference, asking for vigilant mask-wearing and hand washing and to refrain from group gatherings — even small social or family gatherings — to slow the spread of the virus.
Experts say Michigan is predicted to top its spring case peak by the end of November.
“We are squarely in the midst of a public health crisis,” said MHHA CEO Brian Peters, noting that cases are no longer concentrated in Southeast Michigan but instead are on the rise in all of the state’s regions.
Health leaders stopped short of calling for another partial shutdown in the state, instead emphasizing personal responsibility for basic protection.
“One of the most difficult things is getting people to use basic tools of infection control that will protect people from the virus. Particularly, a mask,” said Beaumont Health CEO John Fox. “It’s a difficult situation that people do not appreciate. We see it out in the community, we see it in our own lobbies as people come in, we ask them to wear masks to do the basic protective activity and we get resistance.”
Hospital leaders say their biggest concerns are the health of their essential frontline workers who have been working tirelessly to care for sick patients over the last eight months, in addition to inpatient capacity — which is critical in rural areas like the Upper Peninsula.
CEO Wright Lassiter III of Henry Ford Health System, where the positive testing rate rose to 16.4% Thursday morning, acknowledged that while there’s no silver bullet for COVID-19, health professionals know the basic practices that will slow the spread.
“We clearly know that wearing masks works. We clearly know that social distancing helps. We clearly know that hand hygiene helps you remove pathogens from your hands. And we clearly know that removing yourself from large gatherings where the spread is possible will help,” Lassiter said. “We are here this morning asking all Michiganders to support our essential workers in health care with the kinds of practices that will help us help you.”
While Michigan’s health care systems are in better shape than this past spring regarding personal protection equipment and surge capacity plans, the virus can’t be controlled by hospitals and health care workers alone.
“We need to take this very seriously because not only are the numbers alarming, people are dying,” Peters, the hospital association CEO, said. “Michiganders need to understand how truly serious this virus is.”