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A Message From Ed Ness: COVID-19 Concerns Escalate In Northern Michigan

On Monday, November 9, Munson Healthcare elevated our COVID-19 pandemic response plan to Orange, which is the second highest stage possible. We are very concerned about the current trajectory of COVID-19 cases in northern Michigan:  

  • Our percent positive rate has more than doubled over the last 4 weeks.
  • Positive cases per 100,000 people has increased by 8 times over the same time period. 
  • A surge in COVID-19 patient hospitalizations has resulted in some of our hospitals having to open up more COVID-19 units to meet bed capacity needs — beds that would normally be used for patients with other illnesses.
  • The rise in community spread throughout our region is causing clinical staff, support staff and providers to quarantine, making staffing challenges more significant than what we experienced earlier in the pandemic.
  • For all of the reasons mentioned above, some elective surgeries may be postponed. Patients impacted will be notified to reschedule. Please do not reschedule or postpone procedures on your own without consulting medical advice from a doctor.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit northern Michigan, we faced certain issues such as a lack of evidence-based protocols to treat patients, scarce testing supplies and scarce PPE. Executive Orders halting travel and elective surgeries helped insulate our region from the massive patient surges experienced by other hospitals downstate.


Community Spread of COVID-19: A Statewide Problem

But now our situation is very different. We know how to treat COVID-19 patients better than we did before, and our PPE supplies are good. The challenges we are facing now are directly related to community spread of COVID-19.  And this is not a northern Michigan problem, it’s a statewide problem which causes us even more concern. We are seeing other hospitals across the state reach their patient hospitalization limits and report the same staffing issues. We are used to relying on each other as safety valves in case one hospital becomes overwhelmed. But our options to transfer patients significantly decrease as COVID-19 becomes more prevalent across the entire state.

I am asking everyone to please do your part to reduce community spread. None of us want to stop long-held traditions of deer hunting camps and holiday dinners. But this year, the importance of masking, social distancing, hand hygiene, and smaller gatherings could represent the difference between keeping healthcare services open and available in our region, or placing further stress on our limited resources in northern Michigan and across the state.


Amazing Community Response to the Pandemic

We have done an amazing job of responding to this pandemic so far, and now is not the time to let our guard down. Visit the Munson Connection blog for helpful tips on masking, social distancing, proper hand hygiene, and tips for hunting camps and holiday celebrations.

And, please encourage everyone you know to get a flu shot. We have started to see some residents test positive for the flu and don’t know yet what kind of season we will face. But if the flu season is an average one on top of another surge of COVID-19, it will further stress our limited healthcare resources in northern Michigan and across the state.

Thank you for your continued support,
-Ed Ness, President and CEO of Munson Healthcare