The top surgeon at Michigan Medicine expressed alarm over rising COVID-19 infections in a tweet Thursday, begging for intervention from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Justin Dimick, chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Michigan, tweeted that the health system is canceling surgeries due to the intake of COVID-19 patients.
Noting that bars and restaurants are still open in the state, he asked for help from Whitmer, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt.
“We are starting to cancel surgical cases again to accommodate rapidly accelerating Covid-19 admissions. Entire state is high-risk,” Dimick tweeted.
“Bars and restaurants are open. People are out and about. No new restrictions. We need some help @MichiganHHS @GovWhitmer @CDCDirector @aslavitt46”
Dimick’s tweet came a day after the head of the CDC pushed for stronger restrictions in Michigan to slow a spike in COVID-19 infections — such as a pause on indoor restaurant dining and tighter rules around youth sports.
Michigan, as of Wednesday, had the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, as well as the highest case rates, hospitalizations and number of intensive care patients.
“I would advocate for sort of stronger mitigation strategies, as you know, to sort of decrease the community activity, ensure mask-wearing, and we’re working closely with the state to try and work towards that,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said about Michigan in a Wednesday briefing.
As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, Michigan Medicine had 78 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, health system spokeswoman Mary Masson said.
The health system issued a statement saying “Similar to many health systems across the state and metro region, Michigan Medicine has experienced record high emergency room and admission volumes for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 care this week resulting in extremely high hospital occupancy.
“Due to rising occupancy and forecasts for continued high demand for emergency care and admissions, Michigan Medicine has had to make the difficult decision to reschedule a small number of scheduled surgeries late this week and next week in order to maintain safe occupancy levels,” the statement continued.
“We are constantly monitoring the evolving situation and will make further adjustments to ensure scheduling aligns with our staffing and hospital room availability with safety of our patients and staff always remaining our highest priority.”
In early March, Whitmer’s administration eased COVID-19-related restrictions on businesses, nursing homes and other gatherings, a move the governor described as “good news” for Michigan. The orders, which included doubling capacity limits at restaurants from 25% to 50% and moving the curfew for indoor dining from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., are set to expire on April 19.
Rather than imposing stricter COVID rules, Whitmer told CNN on Tuesday that Michigan might be able to lift most remaining COVID-19 business restrictions this summer if the state’s vaccination rate increases. But she said youth sports “may be one area that we’ve got to do more in.”
Asked to comment on Walensky’s remarks, the governor’s office said Wednesday that Michigan continues to have “smart” health policies in place, such as a mask mandate and capacity limits on large gatherings, unlike states such as Texas and Florida where limits were dropped.
“We are still very much in this pandemic, but we’ve learned a tremendous amount about how to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy said.
Whitmer’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.