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Most regions see steady decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations


COVID-19 hospitalizations in Michigan continue to decline steadily at the state level.

As of Thursday, the number of confirmed COVID patients in hospitals statewide was more than 3,539, which includes pediatric patients, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The number of confirmed adult patients in the intensive care unit was 830.

For the most part, the trend holds at the regional level as well. Compared to last week, six of Michigan’s eight health care regions saw reductions in hospitalized COVID patients. One, southwest Michigan’s Region 5, saw a minor increase. Region 7 in northern Michigan saw no change, recording 115 confirmed hospitalizations on both December 3 and December 10.

Michigan's eight health care coalition regions

At the hospital level, the situation varies. For example, northern Michigan’s largest health system — Munson Healthcare — has seen COVID hospitalizations increase over the last three days. Compared to 80 COVID inpatients across the nine-hospital system December 3, Munson was caring for 92 patients on December 10.

That’s according to the most recent data from MDHHS, but Munson Health Center president and CEO Matt Wille says that by Friday, five more patients had left the hospital.

Wille says it’s too early to tell, but that this week’s increase could be due to Thanksgiving gatherings. Other indicators, however, such as case rates and the percent positivity of tests, have stayed steady across Munson’s system, suggesting that the holiday did not spark a surge.

In Region 6, covering West Michigan, hospitalizations fell nearly 9% over the last week. At Mercy Health St. Mary’s in Grand Rapids, the inpatient census for COVID patients dropped from 66 to 45.

Dr. Andrew Jameson, who leads the infectious diseases division at St. Mary’s, attributes the decline to community compliance with state restrictions, but added that there’s still time for holiday gatherings to show their effect.

“We have not really entered that window where we will be seeing the true impact of Thanksgiving,” he said. “So I’m hopeful, but I am not saying we’re feeling like we’re heading in a consistent improvement yet.”

Henry Ford Health System’s chief clinical officer Dr. Adnan Munkarah sounded a similar note on a Friday Zoom call with reporters. He said the news of no “significant surge” was “reassuring.”

“What we are hoping is that this does not mean that people will lower their guards,” he said.

Hospitalizations in both Region 2 North and Region 2 South, where most of Henry Ford’s hospitals are located, declined over the last week as well.

Speaking at a news conference Thursday, and referring to the vaccines expected to be delivered to Michigan hospitals next week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said, “There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we will not get there unless we all do our part.

“On this, the first day of the Hanukkah season, it is important to acknowledge the light, and strive for the light.”

Will Callan, a reporter for Michigan Radio, hails from the Bay Area, where he lived in Oakland and San Francisco and reported for local newspapers and magazines. He enjoys a long swim in chilly water (preferably followed by a sauna) and getting to know new cities. That's one reason he's excited to be in Ann Arbor, which he can already tell has just the right combo of urban grit and natural beauty to make him feel at home.
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