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CORUNNA — After mostly leveling off at high numbers for more than a month, COVID-19 cases saw a pandemic-record weekly increase in Shiawassee County, and a Memorial Healthcare official warned the facility is under stress from both hospitalizations and staffing issues.

According to the Shiawassee County Health Department Wednesday, there were 441 new, confirmed cases of the viral disease in the county over the past seven days. The previous weekly high increase was 350 cases in December 2020. Cases fluctuated from 199 to 264 in October and November.

Three people have died over the previous seven days from COVID-19, bringing the county’s pandemic total to 129.

The county now has 1,165 “active” cases, which is the highest number since April 28 when there were 1,257. The pandemic high of 1,358 was set in December 2020.

Memorial Healthcare CEO Brian Long said his facility has 35 COVID patients, which includes three in the ICU and nine in the long term care wing.

“(COVID patients are) by far the highest we have seen throughout the whole pandemic,” Long said.

In addition, he said, Memorial — which typically has about 85 in-patients for all reasons — has been running as high as 102 hospitalizations. The increase, he said, is due to COVID, as well as flu and other illnesses.

Because of the increase in cases, and staffing issues, Memorial has increased its status level to “red,” its highest level of concern.

“We are totally in the red at this time. Staffing has been a challenge,” Long said. “We’ve had a hard time for a variety of reasons: illness, backlash toward mandates, short-term issues all industries have seen, and localized factors.”

Long said the facility is limiting visitation to certain circumstances, including people who act in a caregiver role and end-of-life circumstances.

In addition, staff members in nearly all cases are required to wear masks and eye protection regardless of vaccine status.

The hospital is continuing to do elective procedures, but may scale back the number.

“If recovery is more than one day, we’re evaluating that,” he said. “There are no hard-and-fast rules.”

Statewide, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Wednesday reported 14,561 new cases for Tuesday and Wednesday, as well as 242 deaths (some from records checks). The state has seen 1.22 million cases overall and 23,104 deaths.

The CDC Data Tracker says 72.1% of the counties in the U.S. are at high risk for COVID-19 transmission, including every county in Michigan.

Shiawassee County, the CDC said has a case rate of 839.67 per 100,000 people. In addition, the test positivity rate is 19.79%. Anything above 3% suggests community disease spread.

MDHHS now says 70.2% of Michigan residents older than 16 have received at least one vaccine dose.

The CDC says Shiawassee County continues to lag, with 47.7% of the total population fully vaccinated, 54.8% of those older than 12, and 57.3% of those older than 18. Among people 65 and older, 81.7% are fully vaccinated.

Long said the best way for people to avoid serious health issues is to become vaccinated.

“I’m vaccinated. It’s safe and effective,” he said. “Our patient census is 80% to 85% non-vaccinated. Those who are vaccinated have less severe symptoms and shorter stays. Vaccines don’t completely prevent COVID, but they mitigate the severity.”

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