Michigan health system enacts highest level of pandemic protocols

For the first time in its history, Traverse City, Mich.-based Munson Healthcare on Nov. 9 moved to level red pandemic protocols, the highest of the health system's five-stage plan. 

Level red indicates an "overwhelming number of local cases beyond capacity of the healthcare system." Care for COVID-19 patients is prioritized in this stage, with some services, including non-essential surgeries, scaled back. 

These procedures will be assessed on a case-by-case basis "to shift staff and resources where they are needed most," Munson Healthcare said Nov. 9, adding that providers will contact patients directly if a procedure needs to be rescheduled. 

This comes as the positivity rate in the health system's region sits above Michigan's positivity rate. As of Nov. 7, the positivity rate in Northern Michigan, which includes Munson Healthcare services, was 22.2 percent compared to the state's overall 14.3 percent rate, according to data presented during a Nov. 9 news conference.

The system's hospitals are now seeing numbers similar to the spring surge, when hospitalization rates were last at their peak, health officials said during the news conference. There are currently 99 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the system, up from the 71 reported during Munson Healthcare's Oct. 26 media briefing. During the spring surge, the peak number of COVID-19 inpatients was 99. 

Health officials emphasized the rising number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients was not the sole reason for activating level red protocols. 

"It is not only because of the COVID-19 cases, but the high acuity we're seeing of other patients as well as staffing restraints," said Christine Nefcy, MD, Munson Healthcare's CMO. 

The average number of cases per day in Grand Traverse County has also risen from 29 in September to 49 in November. 

About 75 percent of adults in the county received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Nov. 9, while just over 70 percent were fully vaccinated.

 

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