At Beaumont Health, Dr. Nick Gilpin, the eight-hospital system’s medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology, said the average age of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has dropped at Beaumont hospitals the past several weeks to about 50 from the low 60s.

As of Tuesday, Beaumont had a little more than 700 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, slightly lower than the second wave last winter of nearly 800, but much lower than the more than 1,200 daily peak of hospitalizations in the first wave last April.

“We are seeing a slightly younger demographic of patients the past several months. That makes sense because we are hitting on vaccines hard on the over age 65 population and just starting on 50- and 40-year-olds,” Gilpin said.

“Admissions over age 65 is still a significant proportion of patients, but it has really gone down to the 50-54 range. We are seeing a rise in 40s, even in 30s.”

Gilpin said he believes higher vaccination rates of those ages 65 or older combined with younger people frequenting bars and restaurants and socializing more is the reason for the drop in hospitalized patients’ ages.

COVID-19 patients in Beaumont ICUs have increased the past two weeks to about 11 percent of beds, up from 7 percent, he said, adding he expects those ICU admissions to increase.

“I can see the data (on hospitalized COVID-19 patients) broken down by age and acuity levels,” Gilpin said. “The average length of stay has gone down the past month (indicating a younger and less sick patient). The percent mortality with COVID has gone down, the average use of ventilators, how sick people are, all the indicators are down.”

Gilpin said those clinical indicators make sense because of the declining average age of COVID-19 hospitalized patients.

“We are not doing any different protocols. We are still hitting patients with the standard cocktail of steroids, other medications and antiviral meds,” Gilpin said.

One factor that may be contributing to an increase in ICU and hospitalized patients is that the main COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7, now represents an estimated 50% of all of Beaumont’s positive cases. Statewide, MDHHS said the U.K. variant could represent as much as 70% of all new cases.

“We don’t tailor our approach, but we do know the literature presents this with a more severe disease, more higher risk of mortality,” Gilpin said. “We have not seen this so far in our patients.”

Chopra said DMC’s adult hospitals are seeing similar trends as Beaumont and Henry Ford: an increase in COVID-19 inpatient admissions, average age of about 50, but ICU admissions of just 11% of total beds.

Detroit’s COVID-19 seven-day average positivity rate is nearly 18% with more than 2,200 positive tests per day as of early April. The city’s positivity rate has increased from 3.2% on March 5 to more than 17.9% on April 2, the Detroit Health Department reported.

Chopra said DMC limited the spread of COVID-19 by not relaxing visitor restrictions as did some Southeast Michigan hospitals.

“We have maintained our restrictions and have done a really good job at preventing the spread. We are admitting more patients to the hospital than the ICUs. That is something I am very proud of,” Chopra said. “Our younger patients have better recovery than the older patients who have co-morbidities, but we treat them all the same.”

While Chopra said Michigan and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have done a good job rolling out what vaccines it receives from the federal government, the COVID-19 surge in hospital admissions has got her puzzled.

“We relaxed our restrictions on business (including bars and restaurants) a little bit too soon in Michigan,” Chopra said. “The governor is doing a great job in the vaccination campaigns and expanding vaccinations in the state, but these two things (vaccinations and positive cases) at odds. We are at war with the virus and we have to slow down on the openings after you have gained some momentum on vaccinations.”

Chopra said the balance between getting ahead on vaccinations and keeping people away from each other with business restrictions is out of whack.

“Vaccines are clearly working. It is the silver lining,” she said. “We should have waited a little bit longer before opening up the restrictions.”

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