Michigan sets COVID-19 booster goal, offers prevention methods

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KCHD staff member Leslie Griswold, right, prepares to receive her booster shot. Courtesy Kent County Health Department

The state of Michigan last week set a COVID-19 booster goal and gave actionable steps to protect residents from the continued spread of the virus.

The goal includes having 1 million more Michigan residents, including 95% of eligible nursing home residents, receive the booster by Jan. 31. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Elizabeth Hertel also provided steps residents can take to keep their families safe and healthy this holiday season.

Steps for Michigan residents to take, as outlined by the governor and director of MDHHS, include:

  • Getting the vaccine and the booster. A link to appointments is at vaccines.gov.
  • Wearing a mask in public indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings. Details also include upgrading masks to something with additional layers, such as a KN95 mask, or wearing two well-fitting face coverings.
  • Those who are immunocompromised also were directed to take all precautions of unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitting mask for holiday gatherings with friends or family. Instructions also include wearing a mask if a member of a household has a weakened immune system and getting tested before any unmasked gatherings if one has symptoms consistent with, or has been exposed to COVID.

“Today, we remain at a severe point in the pandemic. As the more transmissible omicron variant continues to spread, now is the time for everyone to make sure you have plans for the holidays that will keep you and your family safe into the new year and make sure we all have access to care if we need it,” Hertel said. “We have been surging staffing, requesting more resources and prioritizing keeping Michiganders safe. None of us can predict whether we will get mild or severe symptoms or find ourselves facing long COVID symptoms.”

According to Hertel, even otherwise healthy and young people can get sick or end up needing care, emphasizing the importance of everyone using all available and proven preventive strategies against the virus.

“If you are gathering with family, friends or traveling to a bowl game, be extra vigilant, get vaccinated, get tested and wear a mask to keep yourself and your family safe,” she said.

According to information from MDHHS released on Dec. 21, Michigan’s positivity rate decreased but remained relatively high at 16.2%, still reflecting high levels of transmission. Cases were noted at 477 per million. Cases continue to rise and fall but at an elevated level and are expected to rise with the emergence of the omicron variant. In the past month, 30- to 39-year-olds experienced the highest case rate and noted an increase in hospitalizations among most age groups under 50. COVID patients accounted for 20.8% of occupied inpatient hospital beds, a trend that was rising for 22 weeks. The department also reported 756 COVID deaths from Dec. 3-9.

MDHHS continues to work with local, state and federal partners in support of health systems and to address recent surges and save lives by use of all available resources. Measures include coordinating the allocation of monoclonal antibody medication, expanding and identifying staffing resources for sites, supplementing mechanical ventilators to meet ICU demands, and bolstering local PPE supplies.

“As omicron becomes the dominant COVID-19 variant in the United States, we all have to step up this holiday season to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe,” Whitmer said. “Our hospitals and health care workers have been working tirelessly to save lives, and we are in for a tough four to six weeks.”

Whitmer said everyone must take action to protect themselves and help Michigan’s health care workers and hospitals do their jobs. She also encouraged every eligible resident to get their booster shot.

“Together, we can help 1 million more Michiganders, including 95% of all eligible nursing home residents, get their boosters by the end of January 2022,” Whitmer said. “We know from preliminary data that the booster offers more robust protection against omicron. A 15-minute appointment to get your booster can help keep you out of the hospital and save your life. If you still have not gotten vaccinated yet, know that it is not a matter of if you will get sick but of when. We have safe and effective vaccines. Please get your shots.”

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