Michigan's largest hospital system is dealing with a "runaway train" as it confronts a crush of COVID-19 patients in suburban Detroit, even turning to outdoor evaluations as people show up for care, a doctor said Thursday.
Beaumont Health, which has eight hospitals in southeastern Michigan, said it had more than 800 patients being treated for COVID-19, up from about 500 two weeks ago and just 128 at the end of February.
The surge isn't limited to Beaumont: The number of patients confirmed with COVID-19 was near 4,000 statewide. Four hospitals this week said they were at 100% capacity.
As it has for weeks, Michigan continued to have the nation's highest seven-day case rate, 551 per every 100,000 residents, the federal government reported. Rhode Island was No. 2 at 304.
It's "just like a runaway train right now," said Dr. Nick Gilpin, Beaumont's medical director of infection prevention.
"Some of our hospitals have gone back to establishing a curbside triage center for some of the intake of these patients as they come to our emergency centers. That's just to help balance the load," Gilpin said.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was very aggressive in 2020 but is refusing to order new restrictions to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, relying instead on vaccinations and expanded drug regimens, and urging people to wear masks, keep a safe distance and follow rules on large gatherings.
Gilpin said tough restrictions last year, which included a long ban on indoor restaurant dining, were effective in slowing the virus.
"We have to be a little more prescriptive," he told reporters.
Gilpin, noting that only 25% of Michigan's eligible population has been fully vaccinated, said it's "going to be difficult to vaccinate our way out" of a surge.
Another hospital network, Henry Ford Health System, said the latest spike in patients might last for two more weeks. It has 500 with COVID-19.
"Staffing continues to be our biggest worry. ... Our workers are exhausted," said Bob Riney, chief operating officer.
He said Whitmer is taking the right approach.
The wave is from "gatherings that are taking place inside homes of large numbers of people. That is not something that a policy can effectively police," Riney said.