Ford Field vaccination site | Laina G. Stebbins
While the pandemic continues to worsen here in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday urged Michiganders who contract COVID-19 and have pre-existing conditions to consider an antibody treatment.
The monoclonal antibody treatments from Regeneron and Eli Lilly, which are administered through IV infusion, were granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in November.
The treatments “can be effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths for those diagnosed with COVID,” Whitmer said at a press conference.
Former President Donald Trump received the Regeneron treatment when he contracted COVID-19 in October, which Whitmer said “very likely helped save the former president’s life.”
Whitmer said that more than 6,600 Michiganders have received these treatments and 65% of patients report feeling better within two days and less than 5% require hospitalization following the treatment.
As of Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reports that a total of 764,519 Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 and 16,619 have died from the virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Michigan also has 2,262 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, six of the P.1. variant and nine of the B.1.351 variant.
However, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and DHHS chief deputy for health, said that patients only qualify for these treatments within 10 days of developing symptoms.
“Time is of the essence with these therapeutics,” Whitmer said. “The sooner you receive them after you test positive, the more effective they will be.”
There are currently 70 sites in 37 counties in Michigan that are providing these monoclonal antibodies.
The state is currently working with the federal government to expand supply centers that currently administer these treatments and also working to stand up additional sites, Whitmer said.
State sticks with using vaccines, not closures
COVID-19 case numbers have been increasing by the thousands for weeks, hospitals are reaching capacity and the more infectious COVID-19 variants are spreading across the state.
The Whitmer administration has been relying on vaccination efforts to quell the current COVID-19 surge, but that may take weeks before the state sees a significant relief from the rising cases.
The state has administered 5.4 million doses to over 3.4 million Michiganders. That means 41.9% of residents 16 and up have gotten their first dose and 27.5% are fully vaccinated.
Michigan’s COVID test positivity rate is hovering around 18%, which is five times greater than the positivity rate in February when Michigan was reporting its lowest numbers.
This week, Michigan also surpassed the COVID-19 case hospitalization rates that we saw during the fall surge and over 18% of hospital beds are being used to treat COVID-19 patients. Two dozen Michigan hospitals are at 90% capacity or higher.
“I worked in the emergency department this past weekend, and I’ll tell you it was exhausting,” Khaldun said. “We are seeing more and more people who are being diagnosed with COVID-19. Many of them are younger than what we were seeing with previous urges. We’re trying to take care of both patients with COVID-19 and those who are coming in for other medical issues, and it is really putting a strain on our staff and our resources and our bed space, all of which are spread way too thin. Patients are again lining our hallways, like last spring.”
When asked again why she isn’t implementing new restrictions like she had during previous surges, Whitmer reiterated that Michigan doesn’t have a “policy problem.”
“Michigan still has some of the strongest protocols in place, capacity restrictions, we’ve got mask mandates. Other shades have dropped all these things. We still have them in Michigan, and yet we have high positivity,” Whitmer said. “So it’s not a question about whether or not the policy is the right policy, it’s really more of a testament to the fact that we have combining issues.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health experts have urged more restrictions to combat the surge.
Whitmer said the issues now are the COVID-19 variants that are very present in Michigan and Michiganders who are feeling fatigued by the pandemic.
“That’s precisely why instead of mandating that we’re closing things down, we are encouraging people to do what we know as the most important thing that we can do. It’s not the policy problem, it is a variants and compliance problem and that’s why we really need everyone to continue taking this seriously,” Whitmer said.
Detroit mayor wants to increase city vaccination rates
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan during a Wednesday news conference reported that Oakland County’s vaccination rate is at 48%. Macomb County, its neighbor to the East, has a rate at 39%. However, Detroit, which sits to the immediate South of the two counties, has a vaccination rate at 25%.
“The wealthier communities are virtually all vaccinated. They didn’t listen to any of the nonsense. They had access to the best doctors, and they went out and got vaccinated,” Duggan said.
Duggan also pleaded with city residents to visit various neighborhood sites, which have been open for weeks, and secure a vaccination. The Detroit mayor and former hospital system executive added that walk-in, no appointment service will be available as early as Monday.
As of Monday, 419 Detroit residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 related illness. Of that, 125 are in intensive care, and 79 are on a ventilator, according to the city of Detroit. It represents a significant increase over recent weeks, Duggan said.
“These numbers in a couple of weeks are very likely to be worse,” said Duggan.
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