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Doctors explain Michigan's current COVID-19 surge

B.1.1.7. variant rampant in state
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Posted at 9:50 AM, Apr 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-13 09:50:53-04

ROYAL OAK, Mich. — Michigan is currently the center of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.

According to CNN, COVID-19 cases per million in the state are now four times higher than where they were in mid-February, and the percentage of positive tests in the state are also four times higher than they were several months ago.

While deaths from COVID-19 are falling across the country, hospitals are still seeing scores of middle-aged and younger people being admitted with the virus.

"We're still having people who, unfortunately, are passing away from this disease every day and to us, it's very clear, because it never stopped," said Dr. Justin Skrzynski of Beaumont Health in Royal Oak, Michigan where he says the average patient hospitalized with COVID-19 is in their 40s.

"For some who believe that the pandemic is over because a vaccine exists, it's just simply not true yet," Skrzynski said.

Beaumont Health is treating 791 COVID-19 patients across its eight hospitals, according to the latest numbers that were recorded Sunday.

At Troy Beaumont, the latest numbers showed 182 inpatients. At Royal Oak, 183 were hospitalized with the disease.

Beaumont has not had to halt elective surgeries, but that could change if the surge continues in Michigan.

"Michigan was doing well. The rest of the country had a surge, sort of, mid-last summer, which we didn't, and that's partly because such strict measures in place to try to protect people," Skrzynski said. "The downside to that is because it's circulating so rapidly and we also have the B 1.1.7. variant — which is a bit more contagious — because we've had so many unexposed people, it's more kindling for the fire, so to speak. And that's why we're having such a big surge in cases right now."

And because patients being treated for the virus require their own rooms, every COVID-19 unit means less space for non-COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Patricia Wilkerson-Uddyback, the Vice President of the Detroit Medical Center's Academic & Community Affairs, is one of countless physicians urging people to get the first vaccine that becomes available to them.

"I applaud (Michigan Gov. Gretchen) Whitmer for asking for more, but I just think if people go and use the ones we have, just go and get vaccinated with what we have," Wilkerson-Uddyback said. "I don't think we've exhausted our current supply."

Wilkerson-Uddyback said people who are not vaccinated continue to put themselves and their families at risk for getting the virus.

"We know there are serious, long-term consequences that we're starting to see for people who had very mild symptoms at the beginning of this, and now they're coming back with a lot of long-term sequelae," Wilkerson-Uddyback said.

Both doctors said it's also important that, for now, even fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks.

"The vaccines that we have out there are not 100-percent foolproof," Wilkerson-Uddyback said.

Like countless other medical and public health experts across the country, Skrzynski agrees.

"Eventually, it might come out that people who are vaccinated are not really at risk to transmit to others, in which case we can do away with masks," Skrzynski said. "But we simply don't know yet."

This story was originally published by Kimberly Craig on WXYZ in Detroit.