Michigan health officials warn state is headed toward ‘very sharp crest’ in omicron surge

Modeling for the worst-case scenario has Michigan’s hospitalizations peaking close to 8,000. Right now nearly 5,000 people are in hospital with the disease.  

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Fueled by the omicron variant, infections during Michigan’s sustained fourth wave of COVID-19 continue to rise.

Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Elizabeth Hertel says they’re expecting the number of new infections to drop quickly after a sharp peak.

We’re heading toward what will likely be a very sharp crest in this wave of cases, while still seeing our hospitalizations increase.” —Elizabeth Hertel, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

“With the continued transmission of the delta variant, and the exponential spread of the even more contagious omicron variant, we’re heading toward what will likely be a very sharp crest in this wave of cases, while still seeing our hospitalizations increase,” Hertel says.

Hertel says adults in their 20s are seeing the highest number of infections. Modeling for the worst-case scenario has Michigan’s hospitalizations peaking close to 8,000. Right now nearly 5,000 people are in hospital with the disease.

Michigan’s hospitals are already overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Late last week, Beaumont Hospitals warned they were nearing a “breaking point.” Most Michigan hospital systems have suspended routine and non-emergent procedures due to staff shortages.

Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian says the highly transmissible omicron variant will likely drive up the state’s pandemic death toll. According to the state, more than 27,000 people have died from COVID-19.

“The most pessimistic [model] shows a very steep increase in deaths, and what we are concerned about, and what seems to be perhaps the most predictive, are those most pessimistic models,” Bagdasarian says.

“So we have a choice to make. Do we want to work on bringing that peak down? Or do we just want to let this micron surge explode?” she says.

Hertel says testing is important and the state will be distributing free at-home coronavirus tests at libraries across Michigan including Detroit, Frankenmuth and Taylor.

Graphs of cases during omicron surge

State issues new school guidelines

Teachers and students infected with — or exposed to — COVID-19 will be able to return to the classroom faster after new guidance issued Monday by the state health department.

Recommendations for isolating and quarantining has been halved from 10 days down to five. The new suggestion puts schools in line with guidance from the CDC.

Upon returning to the classroom, teachers and students will need to wear a well-fitted mask for another several days.

Hertel says schools should be able to stay open if they follow guidelines on vaccinations and wearing masks.

“If we can continue to make sure these kids are vaccinated as well as teachers, they are masking and following the protocols that have been laid out, then I think schools should safely remain in person if they can,” Hertel says.

Children as young as 5 are now eligible for coronavirus vaccinations. The number of kids in the hospital with COVID-19 in Michigan is at a pandemic high with 107 children requiring advanced care.

Dr. Lauren Yagiela is a pediatric critical care specialist with Children’s Hospital of Michigan. She says vaccinations are the best way to keep kids in school and prevent them from getting very sick.

“My greatest wish is that a child or family never needs the medical care that I provide in the pediatric ICU. Vaccinating children 5 and older will help us achieve this.”

Yagiela says the treatments — like breathing tubes and catheters — can be traumatic for both the kids and their parents.

For some kids, COVID-19 is only the beginning of their issues, Yagiela says.

“Additionally, we’ve had numerous children develop a condition called multisystem Inflammatory syndrome,” Yagiela says. “This syndrome could occur in children around four weeks after their initial COVID infection. Importantly, the preceding COVID infection can be mild. Many of these children have serious heart dysfunction.”

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  • Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.

  • Dorothy Hernandez is Digital Editor for 101.9 WDET, creating digital editorial content. Her love of radio began when she had a radio show in college when she and her roommate played '80s music in the middle of the night.