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Coronavirus updates, Nov. 19: Gov. Whitmer provides update, nearly 7,600 new cases reported

Here are the live updates for Thursday, Nov. 19
Credit: WZZM/CDC

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Here is the latest information on the coronavirus in Michigan, including the number of cases state offices report and other updates affecting West Michigan.

Thursday's cases

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 7,592  cases Thursday. The total number of cases has reached 285,398.

There were 134 deaths recorded, bringing the death toll to 8,324. The deaths announced today includes 61 deaths identified during a Vital Records review. 

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The latest data on recoveries is from Friday, Nov. 13. It shows that 138,862 people have recovered from the virus. The state updates this data every Saturday. A recovery is counted as anyone who is 30 days out from the onset of their symptoms. 

See the full data here.

Hospitalizations are rising this week. There are 3,072 suspected/confirmed COVID-19 adult patients in Michigan hospitals, 272 patients on ventilators as of Nov. 13. 

Michigan is reporting the number of cases at long term care facilities. That data can be seen here. The state is also now reporting school-related outbreaks and that data can be viewed here.

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Spectrum Health increases capacity as COVID-19 hospitalizations climb

Spectrum Health says it has expanded its capacity by 30% in the last two weeks as COVID-19 patients fill its hospitals. 

"While we are very busy in our ICUs, we have additional capacity and if need be, we can expand our capacity more," said Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan, the largest health system in West Michigan. 

During a virtual press conference Thursday, Elmouchi said the increase in capacity is due both to staff shifting from other areas of the hospital to assist, and the deferrals of certain surgeries.

Though, he said, Spectrum Health is actually deferring less surgeries than it did in the spring.

While the health system, which has hospitals in 14 counties, has expanded capacity, staff are often stretched due to the acuity of patients. 

Elmouchi said that COVID-19 patients are much sicker this time than they were in the spring. 

"So, walking through our units it's very hard to see, and when you talk to some of our doctors and nurses, they've never taken care of this many very sick patients at the same time," he said. 

He said from a staffing standpoint, "we are doing okay now."

Shawn Ulreich, chief nurse executive and senior vice president of clinical operations, said staff has had to pick up extra shifts and been stretched due to sick calls. 

Over 700 of Spectrum Health's 31,000 staff members have tested positive since the beginning of November. Elmouchi said about 20% of staff believe they contracted the virus at work likely from other staff, based on their internal contact tracing. 

"But much like the community, we have a lot of staff that have contracted COVID-19 in the community," Elmouchi said. 

Spectrum Health does between 3,000-4,000 tests a day, and the 7-day rolling average positivity rate is 18.6%. In September, the positivity rate was around 3%. 

Elmouchi said the health system's estimates show that hospitalizations could double by Dec. 1. 

"We are very worried as everyone is in the country about Thanksgiving and how that might drive those numbers further," he said.

Currently, Spectrum Health is treating 345 COVID-19 patients, which is up from 289 last week, which was already over triple the amount of people hospitalized in the spring. 

Elmouchi urged the community to do its part to curb the spread and follow the epidemic order to keep people out of the hospitals. 

"Our strong feeling is the more we can all get the word out that this is real, real people taking care of real people, hopefully will impact some folks and they'll change their behaviors, only until the vaccines here and distributed," he said.

Gov. Whitmer to provide COVID-19 update

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS ) Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun gave an update on  COVID-19 and the states continued effort to slow the spread of the virus a

They will be joined by small business leaders to talk about the steps they are taking to protect against COVID-19.  

Whitmer and the MDHHS announced new COVID-19 restrictions Sunday that will enact a three-week pause on indoor social gatherings and other group activities.  

RELATED: Whitmer admin issues 3-week epidemic order limiting gatherings, closing dine-in at restaurants

Spectrum Health to provide COVID-19 update

Spectrum Health is expected to provide a COVID-19 update to the community Thursday afternoon. 

Topics will include positivity rates, testing, capacity and staffing, safety behaviors, what actions the community can take and more.

The press conference is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. 

Metro Health implements new visitor restrictions

Metro Health announced Thursday that it would no longer allow visitors in the hospital or at offsite locations, with some exceptions. Those exceptions include:

  • Durable Power of Attorney or Activities of Daily Living Patients -- One assistant 
  • Pediatric Patients -- One adult
  • Childbirth Center --One birth attendant
  • Surgery and Procedures with Sedation – One adult visitor while the procedure is in progress.

Read more here.

Oxford, AstraZeneca scientists expect COVID-19 vaccine data by Christmas 

University of Oxford scientists expect to report results from the late-stage trials of their COVID-19 vaccine by Christmas, a key researcher said Thursday as he discussed the team’s latest findings. 

Oxford is developing its vaccine in conjunction with the drugmaker AstraZeneca. Scientists are waiting for the results of phase III trials on thousands of people around the world to show whether their vaccine is safe and effective.

Read more here.

Wednesday's cases

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 5,772 cases Wednesday. The total number of cases has reached 277,806 .

There were 62 deaths recorded, bringing the death toll to 8,190.

Read more from Wednesday's update here.

State recommendations for COVID-19

People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe illnesses. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the CDC. The symptoms include:

  • Fever  
  • Cough  
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea 

*Note: This list does not include all possible symptoms. It will be updated as the CDC and health officials learn more about the virus. 

The best prevention for viruses, such as influenza, the common cold or COVID-19 is to:  

  • If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, call your health care provider. If you do not have a health care provider, call the nearest hospital.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.     
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing.    
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.    
  • If you are sick, stay home, and avoid contact with others.    
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others when in a public setting.


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