COVID-19 surge: Bronson rises to orange status, Spectrum limits visitors

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With hospitals at or near capacity and as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Michigan, Bronson Healthcare announced Tuesday it is raising its response level to from yellow to orange.

The Southwest Michigan hospital system says it is now seeing inpatient levels that match is previous high, set in November 2020. As a result, it moved Bronson Methodist Hospital, Bronson Battle Creek Hospital and Bronson LakeView Hospital to orange surge status.

“We are currently seeing increasing admissions with unvaccinated, younger and normally healthy patients needing care for COVID-19 alongside older individuals with preexisting conditions who are experiencing breakthrough infection,” Denise Neely, senior vice president and chief operations officer Bronson Methodist Hospital and chief nursing officer at Bronson Healthcare, said in a statement. “Combine that increase with individuals seeking care for non-Covid related health issues and we find ourselves with a healthcare system that is increasingly under pressure. Moreover, it’s not just Bronson. We’re seeing this strain on hospital capacity across our region, the state, and the nation.”

“Moving to a level orange response is the latest in our efforts to address this pandemic head on,” her statement continued.

Orange status means the hospitals are going to prioritize pandemic and emergency care. Care that is not urgent may be delayed. Direct caregivers are being relieved of some of their paperwork duties so they can focus on patients. Nurses are being called upon to cover more patients at a time. Outpatient clinic hours may be limited.

Visitor policies are not changing in Bronson hospitals right now, but they may in the future.

The hospital reminded people that emergency rooms are still open. If you are showing signs of a medical emergency, like chest pain, difficulty breathing or symptoms of a stroke, go to the ER.

OAKLAWN SEES RECORD COVID-19 INPATIENTS

The smaller Oaklawn Hospital in Marshall said Tuesday it is “facing … insufficient patient beds” as the surge rages, with a record 20 COVID-19 inpatients as of Monday.

“The Pandemic is Not Over,” are the first words on the hospital’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The hospital said it’s redirecting staff from other departments to help treat COVID-19 and emergency patients.

“Our hospitalists are rounding in the emergency department when they can to help care for patients being boarded because of a lack of available beds. Other hospitals are not accepting transfers because of the volume at their own facility,” chief nursing officer Theresa Dawson said in a statement.

The hospital added that its staff members, who have been battling the pandemic for 20 months, are “exhausted and burned out.”

The hospital is calling on people in the community to get vaccinated to help combat the virus, with President and CEO Gregg Beeg calling Calhoun County’s about 48% vaccination rate too low. Hospital officials acknowledged that there are breakthrough cases, but noted those patients are experiencing less serious cases.

“Our community needs to educate themselves on the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine,” Beeg stated. “The majority of COVID-19 patients needing hospitalization or dying are unvaccinated individuals. Many of these hospitalizations and deaths could be avoided had the patients been vaccinated.”

SPECTRUM HEALTH VISITOR RESTRICTIONS

Spectrum Health, which is now seeing more COVID-19 inpatients than ever before and last week raised its response level to red status, is reducing the number of people who can visit its hospitals.

Starting Tuesday, non-COVID-19 patients in inpatient rooms, emergency departments, urgent cares, walk-in clinics, surgery, radiology and lab locations, and labor and delivery will be allowed one adult visitor per day. That can be a different person each day.

Patients with COVID-19 are allowed one adult visitor per day. It must be the same person throughout the patient’s stay and the visitor must follow hospital guidelines.

Pediatric patients will be allowed two adult visitors who must be the same person throughout the patient’s stay. Pediatric radiology patients can have one adult.

Spectrum Health noted medical staff can make exceptions based on end-of-life care or special needs.

The new restrictions will be implemented at the following locations:

  • Butterworth Hospital
  • Blodgett Hospital
  • Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital
  • Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center
  • Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion
  • Big Rapids Hospital
  • Gerber Memorial
  • Kelsey Hospital
  • Pennock
  • Reed City Hospital
  • United Hospital
  • Zeeland Community Hospital
  • Ludington Hospital

More information about Spectrum Health’s visitor guidelines can be found online.

HEALTH OFFICIALS: GET VACCINATED

The Kent County Health Department said Tuesday that the county is averaging 645 new cases every day and the positive test rate for the area is 22.8%, which is well above the 3% threshold public health officials look for to show community spread is controlled.

“This is a crisis for all of us who live and work in Kent County,” Kent County Administrative Administrative Health Officer Adam London said in a statement. “The capacity for hospitals to provide care, which is exasperated by staffing shortages, is at a tipping point. We should all expect increased wait times for emergency, urgent, and primary care as well as delays in ambulance transfers and some surgical procedures until we control the spread of COVID-19 in the community.”

He said the current surge is the culmination of a number of factors: a high baseline of COVID-19 over the past couple of months, more people heading indoors due to the colder weather and the prevalence of the highly transmissible delta variant.

“And the reality is, as well, that we still have a significant enough portion of our population that’s unvaccinated and doesn’t have an immune response to COVID that there’s still plenty of room for the virus … to spread illness,” London told News 8.

The health department urged people to take steps to slow the spread of the virus and decrease hospitalizations. First and most importantly, it called on everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu. Health officials and hospitals say the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 inpatients now are not vaccinated.

London said the latest surge of cases and deaths is changing some minds and prompting some who have been hesitant to go get their jabs.

“As the severity of this becomes more apparent, I think that there are some people who are seeing loved ones who are affected by this, that it’s changing their minds,” London said. “We’re also seeing the influence of their vaccinated family members and friends. I think the people who have a lot of control right now or ability to influence are those people in the community who are vaccinated. They’re trustworthy friends and family using that influence and coming from a perspective of genuine love and care.”

London also noted that having had COVID-19 doesn’t seem to provide you with the same level of protection against reinfection as the vaccines, particularly over time.

“The response to the vaccine has been more thoroughly tested and is more predictable and we know that it’s going to persist for a longer period of time than naturally required immunity likely will,” London said.

Adults should get a booster shot six months after their first course of the vaccine.

London also urged parents to get their kids vaccinated. He noted that the county is seeing encouraging demand, having administered some 10,000 shots in the last week and a half to reach about 16% of kids age 5 to 11 with at least one dose.

“Get that first dose in the next couple of weeks and that’ll put them on pace to be fully vaccinated by the time school starts back up in January,” London encouraged parents.

People are also urged to wear a mask in public regardless of whether you have been vaccinated, practice social distancing and wash their hands frequently, as well as take action to make sure they stay healthy overall, like getting enough sleep and staying active. If you’re not vaccinated, don’t go to a Thanksgiving gathering.

If you don’t feel well, if you’ve been exposed to the virus or if you’re planning on attending a holiday gathering with people at higher risk for catching the virus, seek a COVID-19 test.

“I want to reinforce and emphasize the point that the community right now has the power within itself to reduce this burden on the health care system,” London said. “Let’s do the things that we can, that are in our control, to lessen that burden on the hospitals.”

He noted that if you start getting your shots now, you can be fully vaccinated by Christmas.

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