Booster urged for all adults, COVID spike grows; Feds send medical personnel to assist Michigan

The state of Michigan has more people hospitalized for COVID-19 than ever before. The Department of Health and Human Services says there are over 4,300 people currently being cared for with confirmed or suspected cases of the virus. Hospitalizations have jumped from 2,249 to the current amount since November 1.

Michigan health officials identified 93 new COVID-19 outbreaks linked to schools last week, which resulted in the infection of 711 students and staff. Additionally, the state health department’s latest weekly outbreaks report, updated Tuesday, Nov. 30, noted 534 ongoing outbreaks from previous reports, which have resulted in the infection of 6,931 students and staff. Those outbreaks include at least one additional case over the past 28 days.

New variant

Omicron has “raised alarm bells” because of several mutations on its spike protein, said Adam Lauring, a virologist at the University of Michigan. Spike proteins allow coronaviruses to attach to cells and climb inside to replicate. It’s not yet known whether the spike proteins in Omicron will trigger the same immune response. Nor is it clear whether the immune response will be enough to shut down the ability of the spike protein to breach cells, Lauring said.

On Monday, President Joe Biden promised that if a new vaccine is needed his office will “accelerate their development and deployment with every available tool.”

Federal help

From the Associated Press (AP) – The federal government is sending 44 military medical staffers to Michigan to help beleaguered hospitals treat COVID-19 patients amid a fourth surge that is now the worst in the country. Earlier last week, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced that the federal government has granted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request for staffing assistance at Michigan hospitals. The federal government will send two medical teams to local hospitals to relieve doctors and nurses.

An advance team of six people arrived on Tuesday in preparation. The rest of the two 22-person teams will arrive on Thursday and hit the ground running and will support staff at Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn and Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids.

The group includes physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists who will mainly assist inside the hospital in the ICU, and wherever else is necessary to reduce the stress of other employees.

“I’m grateful that the federal government has granted our request to provide much-needed relief to the health care personnel who have remained on the frontlines of this pandemic,” said Governor Whitmer. “Right now, our doctors and nurses are reporting the vast majority of their patients are unvaccinated or have not yet received a booster dose. We can all do our part to help reduce the strain on our hospital systems by getting vaccinated, making an appointment to get a booster dose, and continuing to take precautions to keep ourselves and loved ones safe.”

Local case numbers

Berrien County remained in the high #COVID19 transmission category for the 15th week in a row. Berrien County’s percent of tests coming back positive was 24.6 percent on last Wednesday. The prior week, it was just above 19 percent.

The unvaccinated

(AP) — A federal judge on Monday blocked President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate on thousands of health care workers in 10 states that had brought the first legal challenge against the requirement. The court order said that the Federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid had no clear authority from Congress to enact the vaccine mandate applicable to a coalition of suing states that includes Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. All those states have either a Republican attorney general or governor. Similar lawsuits also are pending in other states.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki says President Biden will announce new COVID strategy on Thursday and would not include any business shutdown or home lockdowns.