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U.S. military sending medical staff to help Michigan battle COVID-19 surge

The U.S. government will send 44 military medical staffers to Michigan to help beleaguered hospitals treat COVID-19 patients amid a fourth surge that is the worst in the country, state health officials said Wednesday.

Governor calls for assistance with country's worst coronavirus spike

A nurse dons personal protective equipment at a hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., on April 21. The state is undergoing a fourth surge of COVID-19 — the worst in the country. (Carlos Osorio/The Associated Press)

The U.S. government will send 44 military medical staffers to Michigan to help beleaguered hospitals treat COVID-19 patients amid a fourth surge that is the worst in the country, state health officials said Wednesday.

It also will open beds at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Detroit for transfers.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sought the assistance at the request of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

The two teams of 22 physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists will arrive next week and care for patients for 30 days at Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn and Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, the state health department said.

More than 4,100 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases as of Wednesday. The 3,900 hospitalized adults with confirmed infections was 87 per cent more than a month ago and about 94 per cent of the state's record high, which was set in April.

Emergency room nurses are seen at a hospital in Grosse Pointe, Mich., on April 16. (Emily Elconin/Reuters)

"Right now, our doctors and nurses are reporting the vast majority of their patients are unvaccinated or have not yet received a booster dose," the governor said in a statement. "We can all do our part to help reduce the strain on our hospital systems by getting vaccinated, making an appointment to get a booster dose and continuing to take precautions to keep ourselves and loved ones safe."

Brian Peters, CEO of the statewide hospital group, said the situation is "dire" and the Department of Defence's support is "desperately needed."

"Many hospitals throughout the state are operating at capacity, delaying non-emergency medical procedures and placing their emergency departments on diversion," he said. "Receiving these teams of federal caregivers can only help those hospitals."

Michigan, where more than 25,000 people have died with confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases, again had the country's highest seven-day infection rate Wednesday. It reported 17,000 new cases over two days and 280 additional deaths. The seven-day daily average, 8,165 as of Tuesday, was near its highest point of the 20-month pandemic, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.

Nearly 58 per cent of residents ages five and up are fully vaccinated, below the national rate of nearly 63 per cent. Roughly 27 per cent of the fully vaccinated ages 18 and older have received a booster, above the 20 per cent rate nationally.

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