COVID-19: 10 cases diagnosed per second around the globe as year ends
The rise of the omicron variant has led to a massive surge in cases, during the last few days of 2021.
Staff Video, USA TODAY
Michigan received its first shipment of new oral medications to treat COVID-19, but supplies are limited and will be available only to those most at risk of progressing to a severe case of the virus.
The antiviral medications are for outpatient treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 and arrive at a much-needed time as Michigan again on Friday set new pandemic records for single-day COVID-19 cases, averaging 20,346 per day the last two days.
The state smashed another pandemic record Friday with 110 children hospitalized with confirmed cases of the virus, according to state data. There are 4,412 adults hospitalized with confirmed cases in this latest surge of COVID-19 and the influx of the more highly transmissible omicron variant.
Michigan also is getting a fifth medical team from the federal government, this time to help staff at Henry Ford Hospital in Wyandotte. A 30-member civilian Disaster Medical Assistance Team is being sent to support the hospital’s doctors and nurses as they treat COVID-19 and other patients.
“The authorization of these new medications provides another important tool to help fight the virus,” Elizabeth Hertel, director of the state health department, said of the antiviral drugs. “Due to limited availability of these antivirals, health care providers will need to determine the best course of treatment for their patients based on eligibility criteria.
“We ask Michiganders to be patient as providers will prioritize people at highest risk for developing serious illness from the virus. We are committed to distributing these pills equitably across the state, and access will increase as Michigan receives more allocations from the federal government.”
‘Not a substitution’ for vaccines
The state received paxlovid and molnupiravir after recent emergency use authorizations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to a release. Both may only be prescribed for a patient by physicians, advance practice registered nurses and physicians assistants.
The state health department developed eligibility criteria and prescribing requirements for both drugs because of their limited quantities. The state said Prior Eligibility Criteria for therapeutics, including antiviral medication and monoclonal antibody therapy, will be in effect until supply is able to meet demand.
The antiviral mediations may reduce symptoms and the risk of hospitalizations and emergency room visits when administered within five days of symptom onset, according to the state.
This could help hospitals that are at the breaking point — not only with the number of patients coming in for treatment of the virus and other health problems — but because they are taking a staffing hit as more than 3,000 health care workers in Michigan are off the job because they, too, tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to it.
Hospitals have been forced to postpone some elective procedures as they brace for an influx of more patients in this COVID-19 surge.
“It’s important to remember these drugs are not a substitution for protecting yourself by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask in public places,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state’s chief medical executive. “Getting vaccinated continues to be the best protection against severe illness and hospitalization, and we urge all Michiganders over age 5 to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“Continue to wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth, test and social distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, avoid large gatherings and get vaccinated and boosted if you haven’t already.”
The state said treatment with monoclonal antibody therapy continues to be important for mild to moderate virus infections and is preferred over treatment with molnupiravir when it can be readily accessed.
It also is a comparable alternative to paxlovid for patients who don’t have access to the oral medication, have contradictions to the medication (for example, pregnancy) or are beyond five days, but within 10 days, of symptom onset.
But supplies of monoclonal antibodies has grown increasingly tight in Michigan as the omicron variant spreads, and it’s pushed some health care systems to further restrict eligibility for a treatment.
The state said paxlovid is for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in patients age 12 and older who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.
It will be limited availability through select federally-qualified health centers and tribal health centers and select Meijer pharmacies in southeast and east central Michigan.
Molnupiravir is for treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults ages 18 and older who are at high risk for progression to a severe case of the virus, including being hospitalized or dying, and only when alternative treatment options authorized by the FDA are not accessible or clinically appropriate.
It will have limited availability, based on supply, in all Meijer pharmacies and select retail pharmacies in areas not served by Meijer.
Health care workers ‘battle wearied’
The fifth federal medical team at Henry Ford Hospital in Wyandotte will help strained health care workers, who have spent nearly two years on the front lines of the pandemic.
This new team will include advanced practice physicians, emergency department and intensive care unit nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and logistics and supply chain personnel. It will begin treating patients Monday and provide support for the next 14 days.
“The resiliency and determination of our team members throughout the pandemic have been awe-inspiring. But our team members are battle wearied and drained emotionally, mentally and physically,” said Bob Riney, COO and president of health care operations for Henry Ford Health System. “This support couldn’t have come at a better time for us, as well as the Downriver communities we serve.”
Four Department of Defense medical teams already are assisting at Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn; Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids; Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw, and Mercy Health Muskegon.
Staff writer Kristen Jordan Shamus contributed to this report.
Contact Christina Hall: [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.
Support local journalism. Subscribe to the Free Press.