Henry Ford Health

The Henry Ford Hospital on West Grand Blvd in Detroit.

(The Center Square) – Michigan’s health care and business leaders urged residents to get a COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday as soon as possible to to keep small businesses open and families safe as hospitals “near capacity”.

The Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) and Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) shared stories about the current surge of COVID-19 driven by the more contagious delta variant. Brian Peters, MHA CEO, estimated 113,000 Americans could have avoided a COVID-19 hospitalization in June and July if they had gotten vaccinated.

Hospitals are once again operating at near-capacity levels. At the same time, businesses are still recovering from the pandemic’s impact on supply and staffing. As some of the largest employers in the state – providing more than 234,000 jobs – hospitals are facing higher workloads with limited staffing, and small businesses have been strained over the past year and a half.

However, unlike the pandemic’s previous surges, Peters said the available COVID-19 vaccines can reduce COVID-19 caused hospitalizations and death.

“Our member hospitals and health systems have been operating at crisis levels for more than 18 months,” Peters said. “ Yet many residents still think of hospitals as invincible when in fact our caregivers are exhausted, mentally, physically and emotionally. Hospitals and residents must have a two-way relationship: We’re here for you when you get sick, and we rely on your commitment to also keeping our community healthy so that we can treat those who are most in need of our services. Anyone who needs care should seek it in the appropriate setting. But we can avoid a lot of those trips to the hospital for COVID-19 if Michiganders get vaccinated now. This vaccine is highly effective at preventing hospitalization.”

Peters said Michigan hit a peak of 4,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations and currently has about 1,400 hospitalizations statewide. Hospitals and businesses are facing staff shortages, he said, exacerbating the problem.

While hospitals are leading employers in many communities, small businesses are backbone of those communities. The pandemic has severely impacted entire industries from foodservice and hospitality to retail, manufacturing, and academia, and beyond. Many businesses have postponed specific service lines or production, reduce hours of operation, or increase prices.

“No matter what hardship we’ve faced during this pandemic, I can confidently say we all share the same goals of wanting to see our communities thrive, our children in school and our businesses profitable again,” SBAM CEO Rob Fowler said. “Nearly half of Michigan’s workforce are employed by small businesses. To make, and keep, our communities and economies healthy again, we each have the responsibility of getting vaccinated to end this pandemic.”

Fowler said 18% of their members said they were “pessimistic” that they would survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 5.3 million Michiganders have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Approximately 99% of all COVID-19 deaths in unvaccinated individuals, the vaccine protects against serious illness, hospitalization, and death. National clinical and medical associations and public health experts agree about the importance of vaccinations and appropriate mask-wearing.

“If more people don’t get vaccinated, the threat of a fourth surge in Michigan is very real,” Geneva Tatem, MD, associate division head of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Henry Ford Health System said. “I’ve seen far too many lives forever changed or lost during the pandemic. Today, we have an effective tool that can put us on a better path forward. For those who remain unvaccinated, you do not have the comfort of time any longer. Getting your shot is a matter of life or death.”

Tatem said of 22 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 at a Detroit hospital, 77% are unvaccinated and 15% are in between doses one and two. Michigan residents are encouraged to talk to their healthcare provider or visit Michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine to find a vaccine near them.

The state says more than 20,000 Michiganders have died of COVID-19 as a sole or contributing factor.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.