By Jon King /


St. Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital (SJML) is not an outlier when it comes to being at full capacity with COVID-19 patients, as officials on Wednesday confirmed Michigan’s COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a new high, exceeding the previous record for the fifth straight time that the state has reported data.

Nearly 4,700 patients were in the hospital statewide amid the fourth surge in infections. The roughly 4,400 hospitalized adults with confirmed cases was at the highest point in the 21-month coronavirus pandemic and 150 more than a week ago.

Dr. Brad Uren with Michigan Medicine said there are several reasons why this surge is different than those they’ve dealt with in the past. “We're seeing more COVID patients in Michigan hospitals than we've seen at any other time during the pandemic,” he said. “The other is the more sustained nature of this. This has been building over a period of weeks and months, and while we've had surges and spikes and busy periods, even before the pandemic, this has really been a long sustained battle and that's starting to show on the faces of my colleagues.”

“The other thing that's really different here is that we're fighting misinformation among everything else in the midst of trying to provide this care, not just for COVID patients, but for all of the critically ill patients that are coming to our hospital from around the state to get care.”

Uren was among several Michigan Medicine experts who spoke about the current COVID situation at an online webinar held Wednesday in which they said the recent wave of COVID-19 cases has strained the system and affected patient care.

“The bottom line is that the surge of COVID-19 is putting others at risk and keeping us from delivering lifesaving care,” said Marschall Runge, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of Michigan Medicine, dean of U-M Medical School and executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Michigan. “People are dying at home all across the state and the nation because [Michigan Medicine and other hospitals] are full. People have died, and will die, of non-COVID-19 disease in our area and across the nation. COVID-19 is overrunning our hospitals.”

Michigan recorded 351 additional deaths, including 166 in the most recent 48-hour period. The CDC is projecting the weekly tally in Michigan could reach as high as 1,000 deaths, but will most likely trend at between 500-600 weekly deaths in January.

The new statistics only bear out what has been an increasing reality at hospitals for several weeks. When WHMI visited SJML last Thursday, 32 of the 42 beds had COVID patients, most of them unvaccinated. Their Intensive Care Unit, meanwhile, was full with all 8 patients infected by COVID, none of them vaccinated, and several on ventilators.

That tracks with a recent survey by Michigan's Health and Hospital Association that found 76% of COVID patients are unvaccinated, as are 87% of COVID patients in the ICU and 88% of COVID ventilator patients.

With those numbers in mind, SJML Associate Chief Medical Officer Varsha Moudgal says those who remain unvaccinated have placed themselves at great risk largely based on misinformation and conspiracy theories.

“I’d like to do my part to combat the misinformation that there is about vaccines,” said Moudgal. “I hear from a lot of my patients that they hear vaccines have microchips, that they have DNA that causes permanent changes, that they’re toxic substances that they don’t know what’s in them. I would say that all of these are incorrect. We do know what’s in these vaccines. We do know that they’re RNA and not DNA and they do not persist in the body. They do not cause changes to your DNA.”

Another misconception has been that the vaccines don’t work because of so-called breakthrough infections in which those who are fully vaccinated still test positive. However, state data indicates that only about 2% of those fully vaccinated have been reported with a breakthrough infection.

Dr. Moudgal says they also are far less likely to require hospitalization, especially the kind that fills up their ICU with patients fighting for their lives when a simple vaccine could have prevented it in the first place.


Top: St. Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital Emergency Room Nurses Station

Bottom: Dr. Vasrha Moudgal looks on as RN Jim Lindlbauer prepares to enter a room with a COVID patient. The yellow door caddies hang outside any room with a COVID patient inside.