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In the past few weeks, a rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in Washtenaw County are disproportionately impacting Michigan Medicine.

In the past week, there have been 2,235 new COVID-19 cases in the county with 4% of those resulting in a hospitalization. There have been 18 deaths from COVID-19. All of these cases have been cases of the delta variant.

At a press conference Dec. 8, Michigan Medicine officials said Ann Arbor has been hit especially hard. As of Wednesday morning, there are 110 hospitalized patients who have been confirmed to have COVID-19 or are suspected to have it. This influx of cases has stretched hospitals past their normal bed capacity, according to U-M health officials.

Michigan Medicine CEO Dr. Marschall Runge spoke at the conference. He said that the increasing rate of infections has created “a dire situation,” which is impacting the health system.

“Our physicians in internal medicine probably care for somewhere around 280 to 290 beds (for all medical issues including COVID-19),” Runge said. “But instead, we’re caring for maybe 340 to 350 beds on average, which we were not structured to do.”

These capacity issues have caused ripple effects across other departments at Michigan Medicine, with about 40 routine surgeries being canceled in the past week due to the lack of space.

Dr. David Miller, Executive Vice Dean of Clinical Affairs, said that this trend will continue, leading to more deaths unrelated to COVID-19.

“People have died and people will die (from) non-COVID-19 disease in our area, across the state and in our nation because COVID-19 is overrunning hospitals,” Miller said.

88% of COVID-19 ventilator patients state-wide are unvaccinated, and 16 of the 22 patients at Michigan Medicine in the ICU unvaccinated.

Dr. John Carethers, chair of internal medicine at U-M Health, said that vaccination decreases the effects of COVID-19 making it far less likely for patients to be hospitalized.

“If you are unvaccinated, you have about a 5.8-fold risk for testing positive for COVID-19 and a 14-fold risk of dying,” Carethers said. “So vaccination will help you prevent that.”

Officials also emphasized the importance of mask wearing and social distancing, especially during gatherings for the holiday season. Increased social gatherings throughout the fall semester have also led to spikes in positive cases. COVID-19 cases at the University of Michigan tripled in the week following ‘Halloweekend’ and the Michigan-Michigan State game with 243 positive cases being reported. Following Thanksgiving Break, there was another surge of cases — around 180 cases were reported in the first week back.

Runge said that it is essential to take measures to stay safe for the greater community.

​​“The bottom line is COVID-19 is not only life-threatening for those who have COVID-19,” Runge said. “The surge of COVID-19 is putting others at risk by keeping us from delivering life-saving care.”

Daily News Editor Kate Weiland can be reached at kmwblue@umich.edu.