GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Behind a set of doors in the lower level of Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital on Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile, hospital officials gather 12 hours a day to formulate and update their COVID-19 response plan.

There are no gurneys, no needles, no bed pans inside the System Command Center, just a constant flow of information from one source.

“It kind of helps to slow down some of the rumor mills of, ‘Well, I heard this and I heard this.’ We’ve got five different people sending the message and it’s the old telephone game,” Julie Bulson, Spectrum Health’s emergency preparedness director, said. “We can communicate more effectively out to our organizations because we can turn around that communication rapidly, as opposed to people sitting in their various offices and then it takes time to connect.”

Hospital officials expect to see some case of COVID-19 in West Michigan. Two cases were reported Tuesday on the southeast side of the state.

Their public message has been about prevention to keep the spread in check. The system command center, which was activated last week, is also part of the plan.

“Really looking at worst-case scenarios so that we can be prepared for worst-case scenario. So if and when it gets here, all we have to do is pull that trigger,” Bulson said.

The System Command Center is staffed by officials from a variety of disciplines. They’re monitoring information at the national, state and local levels, making sure critical information is available.

“We can plan with all of the right people in the room so we’re more effective in our planning process. We have all the experts there to make quick decisions,” Bulson said.

The state of emergency declared by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Tuesday night will also help as health care providers prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. One of the things the declaration does is free up additional funds for hospitals.

Say the highly contagious virus spreads. Front-line health care workers would be at risk. Some might get sick and others might end up in quarantine. But the need for their services would remain high.

“Are there contracted staff that we could pull in to be able to take care of patients?” asked Bulson, explained how the state money could be used.

For weeks, health care providers have stressed the need to avoid panic over COVID-19.

“Still the same: Don’t panic. Wash your hands. Stay home if you’re sick,” Bulson said.

Eighty percent of those who get the virus can stay home and let it run its course.

Spectrum Health is also trying to discourage people showing up at the emergency room with symptoms of the virus. It is offering free virtual screenings for COVID-19 to anyone in the state.


Michigan on coronavirus