Michigan is grappling with high rates of COVID-19, with younger adults and children being hospitalized. To deal with the influx of patients, hospitals have opened overflow tents.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
You get a sense of Michigan’s COVID surge when you visit a hospital. Yesterday alone, almost 3,700 new daily cases were reported in Michigan alone, and more than 100 people died from COVID-19, again, in that one state.
Kate Wells of Michigan Radio just visited an overflowing hospital in Lansing. Kate, good morning.
KATE WELLS, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.
INSKEEP: What did you experience inside Sparrow Hospital?
WELLS: Well, you know, we’ve been hearing, obviously, about how much we’re seeing younger adults and younger people being hospitalized. But, you know, in Michigan, we hit a record last week just for kids being hospitalized. There were 70 kids hospitalized at one point last week alone. Sparrow Hospital told me that the youngest patient that they’d admitted was just 2 months old.
One of people I talked to was Kathleen Marble. She is the director of pediatric nursing there. And, you know, she says there’s a range of illness levels there. But some of these little kids are really sick.
KATHLEEN MARBLE: They’re on a ventilator, just like the adults are. And there’s still kids that come in that we find out they’re COVID because we test them when they come into the hospital, and they’re here for a broken leg.
MARBLE: Or they’re here because they were in an auto accident, and then we find out they’re positive.
WELLS: And I guess I just didn’t – I didn’t visualize, like, kids being on ventilators. And of…
WELLS: …Course, it’s not just kids. It’s also younger adults, too, that we’re seeing hospitalized.
INSKEEP: Kids I guess I understand because the vaccine is not broadly available to smaller people. And so the virus would go in that direction as more people are vaccinated. But you mentioned younger adults as well.
WELLS: Yeah. And then the younger adults that I talked to, you know, with the timing, just had not had the opportunity to get vaccinated. Like, Quinita Glynn was really ill when she got there. She’s only 42. She got sick just a few days before April 5, which is when vaccine eligibility opened up to all the adults in Michigan.
QUINITA GLYNN: I was so close. I fought the fight. I’m determined to – you know, waiting for April 5. And here come COVID (laughter). You know what I’m saying? So I tried to push it in quarantine. I just almost made it.
WELLS: I – like, Glynn was so good about quarantine this last year. She has asthma. She’s known this would be life-threatening. She has four kids. She kept the youngest ones home from school. And then last month, she let her sixth grader go back to in-person. She doesn’t know if that’s how she got it, but, you know, that she just can’t help thinking about how close she was. But the good news is that she has made a really remarkable recovery that has just been really a morale boost that the staff there really needed.
INSKEEP: When you say that, how’s the staff doing at this hospital?
WELLS: You know, obviously, they’re exhausted. They’re burned out. But I was just really struck by how almost numb or normalized – not detached, but just sort of, like, accepting of this endless marathon that they’re running. And at Sparrow, they lost one of their own doctors just a couple months ago to COVID. So there’s – you know, last spring this was all – like, the community coming together to support them, and now that’s sort of on them.
INSKEEP: I can imagine so because so much of the country is ready to be done with this and taking off masks when they’re outdoors and moving on with life. But there’s still the reality of what’s going on in this hospital.
WELLS: Yeah. There’s almost, like, a blankness to some of them when I talk to them about this. Like, this is just the reality of life right now. And the good news is that cases have started to decrease slightly in Michigan over the last couple of weeks, and hospitalizations are starting to plateau. But we’re still at a crisis point here.
INSKEEP: Kate, thanks for the update – really appreciate it.
WELLS: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That’s Michigan Radio’s Kate Wells, who joins us as part of NPR’s partnership with Kaiser Health News.
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