Is Jackson County ready for COVID-19 resurgence?


No one should be discouraged from seeking medical care, say health care officials.

By Brad Flory
Jackson County correspondent

COVID-19 cases are again rising in Jackson County, but so far health-care systems and facilities appear well able to handle the increase.

“Our hospital has the capacity and capability for a second wave, and we are ready to apply the valuable strategies we have learned,” said Wendy Boersma, vice president and chief nursing officer at Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson.

Case numbers in Jackson County have risen significantly since late June, but just two COVID-19 patients were hospitalized when Henry Ford Allegiance Health issued its most recent weekly report on July 8.

“The good news is that we are not necessarily seeing more dire cases,” said Rashmi Travis, director of the Jackson County Health Department.

Hospitals statewide are open and ramping up normal services, and health-care leaders say no one should be discouraged from seeking medical care that may have been put off during the pandemic. Henry Ford Allegiance Health is providing non-emergency surgeries and patients can receive visitors.

“All visitors are screened for symptoms and temperature, and then required to wear a mask,” said Boersma. “If a visitor comes to the hospital without a mask of their own, we will provide one.” (More below)

Visiting hours at Allegiance are noon to 8 p.m., and no more than two people are allowed to visit a patient. A limited number of people will be allowed inside the hospital at any one time, and signs are in place to explain social distancing rules.

Jackson County’s recent rise in COVID-19 cases follows a statewide trend. Positive COVID-19 tests in the county slowed to a trickle in early June, but then the trickle built back up to a steady flow.

Fifty-five new cases were diagnosed in Jackson County since June 25, an 11.5 percent increase in total cases since the start of the pandemic. As of July 13, the county total had risen to 531 cases.

Local health officials attribute the recent increase to travel by county residents no longer under a stay-at-home order. The Jackson County Health Department urges anyone traveling to be particularly vigilant about safety measures including use of face masks, frequent hand-washing, and social distancing. Residents returning from travels should be tested if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms or have reason to believe they were exposed to the virus, the Health Department advises.

The Health Department is considering a policy to require a 14-day quarantine for Jackson County employees who return home from travel to high-risk states such as Tennessee and Florida, Travis told county commissioners at a July 13 committee meeting.

Statewide, confirmed new cases of COVID-19 also declined into mid June before rising again. Michigan had 653 new cases on July 11, the most in one day since May 20.

Rising numbers are certainly cause for concern, but new cases in Jackson County and Michigan as a whole remain well below peaks hit in the spring.

Jackson County had 17 new cases on April 13, its one-day record. By comparison, the uptick since June 25 has averaged three new cases per day. Michigan’s record one-day high was 1,953 new cases on April 3, triple the recent high of 653.

For reasons not entirely clear, deaths from COVID-19 in recent weeks have not risen at the same rate as new cases, or at least not yet.

Jackson County had one new COVID-19 death between June 25 and July 13, pushing the local death toll from 30 to 31.

Four months ago, shortages of test supplies precluded widespread testing for COVID-19. The situation is far different today, with three testing sites operating in the county.

“As of now, really, anyone can be tested,” said Travis.

Ventilators to help severely ill patients breathe appear to be ample for present conditions. Statewide, fewer than one-third of 3,040 hospital ventilators were being used on July 10, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. For a nine-county region that includes Jackson County, 47 of 202 ventilators were in use.

Twenty-five percent of inpatient and intensive-care hospital beds in Michigan were open as of July 10. For Jackson County’s region, 24 percent of inpatient and intensive care hospital beds were open.

 Statewide, 543 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on July 13, including 183 in intensive care. That compares to a total of 23,745 inpatient and intensive care beds in the state. Five hospitals in the Henry Ford Health System reportedly had a combined 69 COVID-19 patients, with 28 in intensive care.

Henry Ford Health System reportedly had more than a 21-day supply of N-95 masks and face shields as of July 13, according to state reports.

Boersma said the Jackson hospital is in “a continuous state of readiness” for the next stages of the pandemic.

“To maintain constant preparedness, our leaders have ongoing meetings to evaluate our own processes, and monitor the prevalence of the virus,” she said.


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