The widely predicted new wave of Michigan Covid-19 patients in the cold-weather weeks of the fall has come to fruition, with medical professionals statewide struggling to save coronavirus victims in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) as hospitals face the terrifying prospect of running out of ICU beds in the coming weeks.
Agonizing decisions about overcapacity force Detroit area hospitals’ trauma teams to face the prospect of rationing care in the coming weeks. Top healthcare officials might engage in a hard-hearted triage process to place priorities on ICU patients with the best hope of surviving.
According to detailed numbers released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week, hospitals in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counites struggle with impending 100 percent capacity that could minimize ICU treatment of the sickest coronavirus patients.
The newest HHS statistics show that southeast Michigan is in dire straits. The hospitals’ shortage of ICU beds shapes up this way:
- Detroit – 85 percent of beds are filled
- Dearborn – 87 percent
- Warren – 94 percent
- Mount Clemens – 88 percent
- Farmington Hills – 99 percent
- Troy – 87 percent
The data shows that some relatively small cities — such as Troy, Amarillo, Texas, and Coral Gables, Fla., — now experience rates of serious illness from Covid approaching the levels seen in New York City during the worst weeks of last spring.
The HHS figures released on Monday mark the first time the Trump administration has published detailed geographic information on Covid-19 patients in hospitals. The numbers, derived from reporting by thousands of hospitals, are based on a 7-day average patient count in each hospital service area.
Across Michigan, only the most sparsely populated areas have been largely spared of the hospital shortages, according to a New York Times analysis of the HHS data, which is dramatically displayed in an interactive nationwide map.
Most Michigan communities — even places such as Escanaba, Gaylord and Cadillac — have 80 percent or more of their ICU hospital beds filled with Covid patients.
That led Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to extend her anti-virus restrictions – prohibiting in-school learning, inside restaurant dining and other indoor gatherings — until Dec. 20.
The coronavirus spread generated by family gatherings over the Thanksgiving weekend is still not fully manifested, even as U.S. daily deaths from the virus have reached record levels. But experts say traditional get-togethers on Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve and New Years Day will certainly produce more coronavirus outbreaks among those who reject the guidelines to mask up, follow social distancing and stay home as much as possible.
Southeast Michigan’s latest outbreak of increased coronavirus cases has leveled off to some extent in recent days, but holiday festivities are expected to push the number of infections up again. That will likely lead to more hospitalizations that could overwhelm ICU facilities.
Survival rates from the disease have improved as doctors have learned which treatments work. But hospital shortages could reverse those gains, risking the possibility of increasing mortality rates once again as patients receive a substandard level of care.
In recent days, in some of America’s hardest-hit areas, those suffering from Covid have been relegated to haphazard treatment in hospital tents or parking lots.