Detroit, MI

St. John Ascension Detroit Tops 100 COVID cases: A First Since April 2020 — New Normal?

Joseph Serwach

Michigan has far tougher lockdowns than any neighbor and far more cases than any other U.S. state faithful pray in front of St. John Ascension Detroit Hospital, where Blessed Solanus Casey died in 1957. Photo by Joseph Serwach

DETROIT —  St. John Ascension Detroit Hospital just hit a milestone unseen since April 2020: 101 patients with COVID-19. Eight are using ventilators.

After more than a year of the “new normal” of living with the threat of a pandemic, the state with the highest caseload is sticking to its plans. Precautions are urged, but no one is closing: yet.

“We’re managing it much better, or is the new variant less deadly?” a local physician explained, confiding that this latest surge infected half the healthcare workers in his office.

The Michigan Health Department reported 8,867 new cases, bringing the state total to 756,564 since the pandemic began. The state reported 74 additional deaths Wednesday, bringing the total to 16,586.

“Michigan has the nation’s highest rate by a mile: At 79 daily confirmed and possible cases per 100,000, Michigan’s rate is an astonishing 84 percent higher than №2 Rhode Island, which is reporting 43 cases per 100,000,” Bridge Michigan reports, while saying there are “signs” the surge is leveling.

More than 5.5 million vaccine doses have been administered across Michigan. Among the population 16 and older, 27.2 percent are fully vaccinated (the goal is to hit 70 percent by December 2021).

More than 40 percent of Michiganders have received at least one shot.

Earlier this week, the Biden administration’s new CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, was in tears, calling for new lockdowns, urging Michigan to “lock things down.”

Michigan leaders want more vaccines, not more lockdowns

But unlike past surges, few Michiganders seem to be panicking or calling for the mandatory lockdowns that got the state national attention in 2020. They know the new high numbers are a fraction of where they were in April 2020:

  • Last April 6, 2020, St. John Ascension Detroit hit its all-time peak with 295 COVID cases or 75 percent of the hospital’s beds. By April 14, 2020, they had a peak number requiring the use of ventilators to breathe: 72 patients.
  • The latest numbers (101 patients with eight on ventilators) are a third of the all-time peak hit one year ago. Doctors say they have a better understanding of how to treat the virus now, and the vaccine is working.
  • Many are more hopeful. When St. John hit its peak a year ago, the nearby Catholic Men’s Fellowship, based at nearby St. Paul on the Lake in Grosse Pointe Farms, organized daily prayer marches in front of the hospital saying the Rosary and singing the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
  • The caseloads immediately dropped soon after the prayers began, falling from 295 cases to 184 in two weeks. By summer 2020, the hospital saw about 12 cases per day, but the cases never stopped.
  • Cases continue, but recovery rates have soared even for ventilator patients. While just 10 percent of ventilator patients survived in spring 2020, the current survival rate is above 80 percent and often closer to 90 percent.

Biden CDC: Shut down Michigan more, but Michigan already has toughest restrictions

Instead of imposing new restrictions, Michigan leaders have recommended caution (like advising people to avoid restaurants for two weeks) without locking down or further restricting businesses.

However, Michigan’s work-at-home policies were extended again this week, not closing office buildings but calling for accommodations to allow workers to work from home whenever possible.

Earlier this week, the Biden administration’s new CDC director was in tears, calling for new lockdowns. Michiganders counter: Our state already has more restrictions in place than other states (which are re-opening).

“So when you have an acute situation, an extraordinary number of cases like we have in Michigan, the answer is not necessarily to give vaccine,” Walensky said. “The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer, and to shut things down, to flatten the curve, to decrease contact with one another.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said, “instead of mandating that we’re closing things down, we are encouraging people to do what we know works. That’s the most important thing that we can do. It’s not the policy problem. It is a variant and compliance problem, and that’s why we really need everyone to continue taking this seriously, to do your part.”

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican critical of Whitmer’s past lockdowns, praised Whitmer for “resisting the tremendous pressure to lock our state down and trusting Michiganders to do the right thing.”

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