Record 139 hospitalizations Wednesday surprises Munson Healthcare officials

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Dec. 2—TRAVERSE CITY — There were 139 inpatients receiving treatment for COVID-19 at Munson Healthcare's hospitals on Wednesday, the biggest surge of hospitalizations officials have recorded to date, said Munson Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Dianne Michalek.

"I think it's surprising to all of us right now," Michalek said, adding officials were surprised by the spike in hospitalizations so soon after Thanksgiving.

Hospital officials are bracing themselves for the surge to worsen, as a spike in COVID-19 cases usually occurs two weeks after holiday gatherings, like Thanksgiving. Health officials expect by next week they could see a spike in case numbers triggered by holiday travel and gatherings.

Michalek said she couldn't explain the recent increase in hospitalizations except to say this particular surge, related to the Delta variant, has been unpredictable.

"It's really unpredictable," she said. "This surge has not behaved like other surges where we spike really high. We've been plateauing."

She added that people are also staying in the hospital longer because of the severity of their illness, and doctors are seeing substantial variability in how the infection impacts patients because of the wide variations in who is immunized and who has received the CDC-recommended booster shot.

The Munson Healthcare website on Wednesday morning listed 133 patients hospitalized in a Munson Healthcare hospital for COVID-19, with 71 of those at Munson Medical Center.

At Cadillac Hospital, there were 22 patients hospitalized with coronavirus, at Grayling Hospital, 20, at Ostego Memorial Hospital, 11, at Manistee Hospital, 6, and at Charlevoix Hospital, 3.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, state data shows there have been 72,693 total COVID-19 cases detected and 1,247 total deaths reported in northern Michigan by Wednesday, according to data published on the Munson COVID-19 dashboard.

Michalek said hospitals downstate are at capacity and it's concerning Munson Healthcare staff.

"That is our safety net, where we can transfer patients downstate when we're feeling overwhelmed," she said.

Michalek said Munson wouldn't turn anyone away, but she also said it's difficult to create more beds in the midst of a staffing shortage. She said officials have asked for more resources from the state.

"We're definitely hiring," she said. "The problem is there's a national nursing shortage. It's a perfect storm right now."

Statewide, on Tuesday and Wednesday together, there were 16,530 new cases, an average of 8,265 new cases per day, and 358 new deaths, which included 160 new deaths identified during a records review.

For more information, visit the state of Michigan's dashboard at or Munson Healthcare at

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