Michigan requests federal help amid COVID spike as Minnesota deploys Natl. Guard troops to eldercare homes

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Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has requested federal health assistance after her state has become the new epicenter of the latest wave of COVID-19 infections.

Meanwhile, her Democratic colleague in Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz, has activated 400 members of his National Guard force to assist healthcare providers in many of the state’s elder care facilities.

The Daily Mail reports that both upper Midwest states are experiencing a rise in cases as the winter cold forces more people inside, with Michigan cases spiking 88 percent over the past two weeks.

In particular, hospitalizations have gone up 48 percent over the past two weeks while deaths have risen 64 percent.

“Of 3,114 ICU beds in the state, 85 percent – or 2,651 – are occupied, according to the state health department,” the Daily Mail reported, adding that in Minnesota, hospitalizations are up 30 percent over the past 14 days, with coronavirus deaths rising 15 percent, most of those concentrated around Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Two teams of 22 federal military health professionals to include doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists are being deployed to shorthanded hospitals for 30 days: Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn and Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, according to state health officials.

“Right now, our doctors and nurses are reporting the vast majority of their patients are unvaccinated or have not yet received a booster dose,” Whitmer 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,” she added.

Brian Peters, the head of a statewide hospital group, noted that the current situation in Michigan is “dire” and that the Pentagon’s assistance and support are “desperately needed.”

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

Walz in Minnesota, meanwhile, ordered 400 National Guard members to help nursing staff at elder care facilities, to help fill staffing gaps that have become increasingly severe.

Last year Minnesota hospitals and healthcare facilities were short-staffed due to sickness among employees, but now, state health officials say, the shortages are mostly due to professionals having left the healthcare industry altogether.

“The situation is different now,” Jan Malcolm, the state health commissioner, said. “Staffing shortages are much more structural, much more permanent.”

Walz has proposed spending $50 million in unused COVID-19 relief funds to help health care facilities hire and retain staff to mitigate shortages. But the plan will first need approval of a legislative committee that currently has the governor’s request under review.

His office said that the 400 Guard troops will begin training next week as certified nursing aides and medical assistants next week.

Certain facilities will be sent Guard teams for up to three weeks at a time, the Daily Mail reported.

“Our long-term care facilities are facing an all-hands-on-deck moment, and that’s why we are taking unprecedented action to support skilled nursing workers, residents and patients,” said Walz in a statement.

The Defense Department is also sending medical teams to hospitals in Minnesota. They will reportedly begin treating patients at the Hennepin County Medical Center and St. Cloud Hospital this week.

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