By Crystal Hayduk
St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Hospital (SJM-C) hosted a virtual community forum to share the latest information about COVID-19 on April 22.
Jaclyn Klein, marketing manager and host of the meeting, said 95 people attended the forum, which was recorded and is available to watch in its entirety at https://bit.ly/3aygwQa.
Nancy Graebner, SJM-C’s CEO, cautioned listeners that the COVID-19 situation changes rapidly, so information released today could be different than information available tomorrow.
- County-wide numbers of cases and deaths, as well as other information, are released daily at https://www.washtenaw.org/3095/COVID-19.
- As of April 23, there were 966 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Washtenaw County, with 42 deaths. The county reported 32 diagnosed cases within the 48118 zip code.
Dr. Alon Weizer, chief medical officer, said the number of new cases appears to be plateauing and will hopefully begin a continuous downward trend. “I do feel strongly that a lot of our social distancing policies, masking, hand hygiene — have really paid off for us pretty significantly because we have never outstripped hospital and ventilator capacity in Washtenaw County.”
Joe’s-Chelsea Hospital has an average daily census of nine or 10 patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
At this time, SJM-Chelsea primarily sends COVID-19 tests to Ward Labs, part of the Trinity system, which provides results in about 24 hours. The Abbott rapid (15-minute) test is used at the hospital when the result is needed quickly, such as directly prior to an urgent surgery. Testing is still occurring to determine the rapid test’s level of accuracy at diagnosing true positives and true negatives.
“I still think our more reliable test is that 24-hour turnaround time that we’re going to continue to lean on and we have good capacity on that,” said Weizer.
Health professionals support a gradual approach to reopening communities for business. However, widespread testing is a critical component to inform the process.
“Michigan has had some of the highest number of cases with the least amount of testing, so we really don’t know what the prevalence is,” said Weizer. “Testing more broadly could be a good indicator for how to relax the restrictions that have been put into place.”
As we step into the “new normal,” continued precautions will help to minimize the spread of COVID-19, even when Stay Home, Stay Safe orders are relaxed. These precautions include social distancing, washing hands, avoiding crowds, disinfecting surfaces, and using masks when in public places. Weizer said that mask use helps remind people not to touch their faces, and it reduces the spread of illness by people who are asymptomatic carriers.
Opening Up America:
Graebner reviewed federal Gating Criteria, which states must meet before beginning phased opening. This includes a 14-day downward trajectory of illnesses with symptoms of influenza and COVID-19.
Once a state meets the criteria, they can begin to reopen in three phases. At each point, the state needs to show that they continue to meet the Gating Criteria.
(Visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/ for a complete list of Gating Criteria and specifics for each phase.)
SJM-C Safety Measures:
Cheryl Taylor, chief nursing officer, provided information about the hospital’s response. “Our [emergency room] is still open and ready to take care of anybody that needs us – strokes, traumas, and any medical emergency,” she said.
Everyone who enters the building undergoes screening. Visitors are still limited to reduce the number of people in the building. Some exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis. Patients wear masks when in the hall and when staff enter rooms.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Supply:
Taylor thanked the community for their help with obtaining needed supplies. PPE supplies are being monitored and conserved to plan ahead for the potential second surge of COVID-19. The hospital continues to accept donations of gowns, cotton face masks, surgical bonnets, and face shield supplies, which they review to ensure proper fit and protection before use.
Community resources for mental health needs:
- SJM-C inpatient and outpatient behavioral health: assessment — 734-593-5250
- Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Peer-to-Peer Warmline – 888-733-7753 (For Michiganders with mental health conditions; provides resources/referrals and to share the experience of recovery and hope.)
- Washtenaw County Community Mental Health – 734-544-3050 or text SHARE to the crisis line at 741741
- Database of service providers — https://communityresources.trinity-health.org/
Ways you can help:
In addition to donations of cotton masks, gowns, and face shields, Graebner said the staff appreciates messages which have been posted to the hospital’s gratitude wall. Cards and letters can be mailed to: SJMC Community Health, 1515 Commerce Park Dr., Chelsea or electronically at https://bit.ly/34S12Fp.
Support the community:
Support local food pantries, check on neighbors through phone or technology, and support local restaurants with carryout orders.
One of the best and most important ways to support the community during the pandemic is to follow social distancing guidelines and executive orders. “I advise those living within our community to adhere to the government stay-at-home order, and to wear a face mask and maintain a safe social distance from others while outside the home,” said Weizer. “Most importantly, wash your hands and sanitize often. Following these guidelines is our best chance to avoid a second spike and will help create the conditions necessary so that people can return to work safely. Though viral testing will help, the risk of relaxing social distancing and hand hygiene measures too quickly can result in a second spike, further derailing economic activity and delaying our return to normalcy.”