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The Washtenaw County Health Department reported a record high of 641 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.

Washtenaw County is not alone in battling elevated COVID-19 case counts. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the state averaged a record of nearly 13,000 new cases per day in the past two weeks. 

With the Omicron variant now accounting for the majority of cases in the U.S. and being over four times more transmissible than the Delta variant, hospitals across the state are being swarmed with COVID-positive individuals. 

Dr. Brad Uren, Emergency Physician at Michigan Medicine and Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, said that Michigan Medicine saw more COVID-positive patients than usual on Thursday after a plateau earlier this month.

“We have been seeing a lot of COVID patients all fall and there was a temporary lull around the Holidays,” Uren said. “(On Thursday) we saw many more patients with positive COVID tests. Some of them are very sick (and) require admission to the hospital and others are positive and simply don’t feel well.”

As COVID-19 hospital admissions increase, bed availability and staffing shortages pose a serious problem. Uren said roughly 10% of hospital beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients, and on Thursday the ER experienced a time where no beds were available to those seeking emergency care. 

“We have basically filled all the beds in the Emergency Department,” Uren said. “(COVID-19 patients in hospital beds) has hovered around 10% of our capacity over the past several weeks. As we use all the available beds, patients begin to spend time in the waiting room.”

The American Society for Microbiology says the Omicron variant has over 50 mutations in its spike protein, and as the virus changes, so does the country’s understanding of how it affects individuals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated quarantine and isolation recommendations.

According to the new CDC recommendations, a person who tests positive for COVID-19 should quarantine for 10 days instead of the previously recommended 14. If a person is exposed to COVID-19 and has received a booster shot, that person should wear a mask around others for 10 days and get tested on day five. If a vaccinated person who has not received a booster shot is exposed to COVID-19, they should stay home for the first five days, get tested on day five and continue to wear a mask for five days after that. 

Uren reports that Michigan Medicine has admitted more unvaccinated than vaccinated individuals. He also said the vaccine is the greatest weapon to combat an overwhelmed healthcare system.

“What we are seeing in the hospital is that people who are unvaccinated with COVID generally tend to be sicker,” Uren said. “We are seeing those who are fully vaccinated…requiring admission, but those are still relatively rare. If you are young and relatively healthy without comorbidities, the vaccine can do a great job of protecting you from severe illness and hospitalization.”

For statistics regarding vaccination status and admission to Michigan Medicine, click here