Munson Healthcare treating fewer COVID-19 patients, some with less severe symptoms

Jul 22, 2020


COVID-19 cases at Munson by day. Last updated July 22, 2020

While COVID-19 cases continue to rise steadily in northern Michigan, Munson Healthcare is treating fewer patients and reports it has enough resources to treat those who need hospital care.

For a while in May and June, the hospital system admitted few, if any, COVID-19 patients. But they saw a spike in hospitalizations last week and just before the July 4 holiday. 

Now, patients in their care appear to be dropping off again. As of Wednesday, Munson is now only treating three patients who have the disease, though several patients are awaiting test results. 

Munson Chief Medical Officer Christine Nefcy says over the last two weeks the system has seen fewer patients that require a ventilator or an ICU bed. She says more young people are needing help getting oxygen into their lungs. 

“Certainly we are seeing young people who get ill from this and some who get significantly ill from this,” Nefcy says.


She says these patients need a steady supply of oxygen because the right amount is not flowing to the brain, heart and kidneys.

Munson says some of the extra ICU beds it had prepped have been moved back to other parts of the hospitals. There are roughly 20 ICU beds at the Munson Medical Center in Traverse City on reserve for COVID-19 patients with more at the hospitals in Cadillac and Grayling. 

“There is quite a bit of flexibility [in available beds] depending on the severity of the symptoms for those patients,” Nefcy says. “For a mild illness, or one just requiring a low level of oxygen, we have many beds available.” 

For those patients, a negative pressure room with a dedicated COVID-19 medical team should suffice, Nefcy says. Currently, the hospitals are keeping up.

“If we keep having the same number of fluctuation of cases but it's within, below that 10 to 15 [patient] range we can very comfortably take care of those with the number of beds and ventilators that we have,” she says. 

But Nefcy says some COVID-19 patients can stay in the ICU for as long as a month. It’s a long time, compared with other forms of treatment like pneumonia that at most require a few days, and can severely strain resources.

For that reason, leaders in the Munson system are still closely watching new cases in the region. The percentage of positives helps them get a better picture of how many people in the region actually have the disease, which in turn tells them the risk for spread and potential number of cases.

“We are preparing for what could potentially happen in the fall,” Nefcy says. “If schools open, if we start to have a second surge, if we have a tough flu season all of those things will impact the hospital and health care system pretty significantly.”