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872 staffers at Henry Ford Health System tested positive for COVID, but there are "signs of hope"

Paulette Parker

Henry Ford Health System says it's in the "middle of the surge" of COVID-19 cases, and expects to hit a peak in the next few days. But administrators say they’re also seeing some signs of hope.

“We have three pieces of good news to share today,” Dr. Steve Kalkanis, CEO of Henry Ford Medical Group, said in a press briefing Thursday. “One, we’re discharging patients to home more than those who show up to the emergency rooms. Secondly, we’re getting patients successfully weaned off of ventilators, more than those who need to go on ventilators.

"And third, based on our own internal analytics, our numbers of COVID positive patients in the community presenting to our emergency rooms, seems to be tapering off and is slightly less than what we would have predicted.”

Kalkanis warns, though, that they're not ready to say they're through the peak of the crisis.

“We’re actively managing capacity and resources concerns, but we do have several glimmers of hope.”

At the same briefing, Dr. Betty Chu, Henry Ford’s associate chief clinical officer and chief quality officer, announced that 872 of the health system’s staff have now tested positive for COVID-19, since testing began on March 12. Another 22 test results are still pending. So far some 3,000 employees, and the employees who’ve tested positive represent 2.5% of the total workforce, Chu says.

“We’ve been fortunate to have very robust testing in the system, and we’ve been prioritizing the testing of our employees for COVID-19.”

The context here is important, Chu says.

“We recognize that the number of employees who’ve tested positive may sound high to some people, and I would caution folks to realize that of course, if we’re testing employees, it may seem that we have a higher number than other health systems that may not be doing as much testing or other areas of the country that don’t have as much access to testing.”

Many of those who tested positive are staff who “never had direct patient care involvement,” Chu added, although she didn’t specify how many.

Editor's note: Henry Ford Health System is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

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Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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