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MiBiz with Mark Sanchez

Mark Sanchez
Mark Sanchez

Responding to RSV surge Corewell Health asks state for additional I.C.U. beds at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital

Patrick Center: Wednesday afternoon. Time for our bi-monthly conversation with my biz senior writer Mark Sanchez. RSV, Respiratory Syncytial Virus is spiking across West Michigan and that is impacting pediatric hospitals.

Mark Sanchez: Yeah, you know, you may remember a year ago with COVID-19 it filled hospitals in late 2021, early 2022, everybody was in tough shape. So this is eerily familiar. It’s RSV, this is a respiratory illness, it hits this time of year in the cold weather time. It's coming and hitting harder this year. Well, one of the reasons because we all spent a couple years in some sense of isolation, wearing masks, and they weren’t exposed to these viruses for a couple years and now it’s gaining up on folks. Last week, Corewell Health, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital filed an emergency request with the state to add 48 beds and to also designate more ICU beds. So they're filling up, they are seeing more of these patients coming in. Basically the advice for folks is what we’ve been hearing for almost 3 years, wash your hands, try to keep a little distance, air out your place, common sense. It's a virus that happens and it’s just simply hitting a little harder, or much harder this year.

PC: From my conversations that I've had with different physicians is if you're sick, stay home. That seems to be the big one because this is highly contagious.

MS: Yeah, absolutely. Stay home. Don't go to work. Don't send your kids to school. Stay home, you’ve hear that so much and it’s just common sense. You can ask any day-care director about this and how they’ve seen parents drop off their kids when they're sick. And, you know, everybody who’s ever had little kids in day care know that they're kind of a petri dish and those [unintelligible] quickly in those settings as well as in schools. So, bottom line this is just something to keep repeating and keep saying is if you're sick, if you’re kid is sick, the best way to sometimes address these things to keep them home or you stay home.

PC: Dr. Jerry Evans from region 6, I had an opportunity to speak with him last week. This is something they anticipate thing about it a 10 week stretch of

the increase in the number of cases and then you link in the start of the influenza season and this is where they have their greatest concern. The ask for more beds through the state may coincide, there might be a reason why they're getting ahead of this.

MS: Yeah, this is precautionary, they’re trying to get ahead but there's been a lot of learning since early 2020 about how to address these situations and help prevent, you know. You always have best practices and know some of how to do it, but there's been a lot of learning, so, as far as operationally they're looking to get ahead of this thing and if it happens they’re prepared for it. But the same time just to reemphasize, all that advice of follow simple common sense steps and…it’s here, RSV’s here, COVID is still around and we’re also heading in toflu season.

PC: Sticking with the theme of staying one step ahead. You're seeing Michigan employers boosting wages to keep competitive. This is a job seekers market.

MS: You know how many times over the last few years have we talked about this very issue. The labor shortage and what it's doing in the economy. And this data, we wrote about here in this week's edition MiBiz, this is a survey, a wage salary survey of the Employers Association here in Grand Rapids. I think it had about 300 or so employers respond. Bottom line, the average wage increase among those survey respondents with 5.2% this year. To put that into context for 2021, it was 4.4%. Going back a number of years they ranged about 2%. So here's one more bit of data in response to this tight labor market, this labor shortage of so many employers across just about every sector of the economy, you're seeing them have to put more pay in the field. That’s a basic thing, you pay more, you attract more people. And again this has probably contributed to the high inflation, not all of it but part of it, and this tight labor market is going to continue for some time. The bottom line, if you're looking for work or looking to switch jobs, there are folks paying the high wages, higher rates.

PC: You mentioned in your article the COVID factor.

MS: The issue of folks working at homem, working in the office. There are a lot of folks also during the thing, since March 2020, simply left the workforce and Michigan's workforce is still not quite back to where it was pre-pandemic. It isn't in the Grand Rapids marketplace, but statewide it’s not back yet. So that's also contributing to the tight labor market and the labor shortage. And again, you know, everybody understands that supply and demand. You have a lack of supply and you have a high demand. That means that employers are paying more. Pre-pandemic we heard so many people benchmarking a lot of what they did to The Great Recession in 2008, 2009. And the pandemic has now just completely erased that. Everything’s benchmarked now to pre-pandemic.

PC: A number of economists now anticipating a recession. Some say it will be mild. University of Michigan economists are expecting auto sales to shield Michigan from the worst.

MS: Yeah, this is an outlook that came out from the U of M economic forecasting unit the other day. The history is always that Michigan has always had a bigger down turn when the national economy goes down. There's the old line of when the U.S. has a cold, Michigan has the flu. Part of that is because we still have an auto-dependent, manufacturing dependent economy. When the U.S. economy goes down people aren’t buying cars. That affects our economy. Well, that could be very well different here in 2023, the year ahead. The U of M outlook first shows slow real GDP for the U.S. in the first half of 2023. Then it goes negative in the second half. 0.8% from July to December. So the U of M data is predicting mild recession in the 2nd half of 2023. What does that mean for Michigan? Well, in their state forecast they as well put out, they anticipated that Michigan will still have some good job growth, at least decent job growth. 9,200 jobs per quarter 2023. In the presentation the other day, the economists at the U of M talked about this is could be a little different for the state where the outlooks for auto sales are still strong, showing higher automotive sales in the U.S. in 2023.

That's going to give Michigan a little bit of protection from a mild economic downturn toward the latter half of next year.

PC: MiBiz senior writer Mark Sanchez, we thank you for your time. We're thankful for you. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

MS: And to you too and your family Patrick, and all the WGVU listeners. Happy Thanksgiving.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.
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