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Yes, some hospitals are full, but leaders say you should still seek care if you need it

Hospital leaders are asking people to still seek medical attention, even as more hospitals reach capacity.

As of Thursday, the state listed six hospitals at 100% capacity, meaning all of their inpatient beds are occupied. More than a dozen others are above 90% capacity.

“We’re able to accommodate more than we currently have, should the need occur,” says Dr. Loren Hamel, president of Spectrum Health Lakeland, where 100% of bed are currently occupied, according to state data.

Hamel spoke during an update with the Berrien County Health Department on Friday. He says the hospital has plans to expand capacity to treat more non-COVID patients.

“We are completely committed to take care of the heart attacks, and the strokes and the injuries that occur within Berrien County," Dr. Hamel said. "So you can count we are doing everything we can to be there for you if a medical need arises.”

Hamel says while his hospital has the ability to add beds for non-COVID patients, the number of patients in the ICU has doubled in the past week.

“The ICU is running essentially full, and of course that’s concerning,” Hamel says.

At Spectrum Health’s other hospitals in Grand Rapids, ICU capacity has been expanded. Dr. Joshua Kooistra, chief medical officer for the hospital system, says there are now eight medical ICU teams working in Grand Rapids at Spectrum’s hospitals, up from the usual three teams.

Both Kooistra and Hamel say they are preparing for the number of coronavirus patients to increase in the coming weeks.

That’s even as COVID-19 caseloads leveled off, and even declined at some West Michigan hospitals in the past week.

Nicki Britten, health officer for the Berrien County Health Department, says one reason may be the effect of the current statewide emergency order.

“It would make sense that if our community was doing these things, and we were getting more diligent in these health and safety measures, we would start to see that leveling off right about now,” Britten said during the Friday update.

Britten and others says they're still not sure if the trend can last, given that some people gathered for Thanksgiving, and may continue to gather during the holidays. Britten said health officials should know by next week whether those gatherings have led to further spread of the virus.

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Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.