At local hospitals, the fight against COVID-19 is starting to shift.
Kelly Indish is union president for AFSCME McLaren-Flint Registered Nurses Local 875. She said at the height of the pandemic, McLaren staff was handling 80 to 90 COVID-19-related patients per day, and four floors were repurposed to handle these patients.
Indish isn’t sure when the peak was exactly, but it was probably in March.
In this time nurses could see two to three patients die from COVID-19 each day.
Today they have approximately 20 COVID-19 patients in total. “Those nurses are exhausted,” she said. “They’re still dealing with the COVID patients.” She said she thinks the death rate has declined.
Two of the four repurposed floors have been returned to their original use. One for example is being returned to a step-down unit (SDU), which provides intermediate level care between intensive care and general care.
Pam Campbell is union president of Registered Nurses/Registered Pharmacists of Hurley Medical Center. She said COVID-19 cases are flattening out, with fewer cases reported over the past eight weeks.
During the peak, some Hurley staff was rerouted from their units that handled elective procedures to help with the COVID-19 cases. Now, as elective procedures are allowed again, some are getting back to their normal jobs, and units are returning to their original purpose, like at McLaren. Some workers are still on reduced status, however.
“There were lots of ‘hills to climb,’” Campbell said. “I don’t think the public realized these nurses couldn’t even go home and be with their families.” Because they were in contact with COVID-19 patients, nurses couldn’t risk spreading the virus to families, so they stayed at dorms or lived in RVs in their driveway, separated from families so they could do their job. Now, she said that’s wrapping up.
Indish has mixed feelings about quarantine and social distancing restrictions being lifted, as the contagion curve flattens.
She understands that people are tired of being home and self-quarantining. She’s worried that once people start getting out and businesses start opening, they’ll relax their social distancing, leading to a resurgence of the virus. “It’s going to happen again, and that worries me … When you open it up, I believe it’s coming back,” she said.
Campbell also urges caution, adding that they still don’t know how immunity works with the virus and whether there will be a vaccine. She added that flu season is right around the corner.
Tri-county COVID-19 cases
Michigan has 53,009 COVID-19 cases.
In Genesee County, 8,034 people have been tested for the virus, with 24 percent coming back positive. There are 890 pending tests as of May 20.
Oakland County has had 8,117 cases, with a declining number of deaths since mid-April, according to the county. Oakland County has had 930 deaths.
Livingston County is reporting a total of 490 cases with 26 deaths.
Genesee County COVID-19
Fatality rate: 12.4 percent
Median age: 56 years
Age range: 10 to 102 years
There have been 76 cases in Fenton, 31 in Fenton Township and 16 in Linden.