COVID cases climbing West Michigan Vaccine Clinic expands vaccine eligibility to 16-years +

Mar 31, 2021

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine distribution
Credit Jake May/The Flint Journal / Associated Press

COVID-19 vaccine eligibility is expanding to anyone 16-years of age and older at the West Michigan Vaccine Clinic at Grand Rapids’ DeVos Place. The timing coincides with a concerning new wave in COVID-19 cases impacting younger people. 

“This is strangely and sadly reminiscent of what we felt in the fall.”

Dr. Darryl Elmouchi is President of Spectrum Health West Michigan. He explains that a couple of weeks ago COVID-19 inpatient admissions were at about 50. Since then admissions are climbing faster than the Thanksgiving surge.

“As of an hour or so ago we’re up to 139. So, we’ve really come close to tripling where we were just a few short weeks ago."

And intensive care unit admissions have doubled in four days. Elmouchi says that suggests in about a week, deaths will increase.

Statewide, the seven-day average positivity rate is 11.8%. Across all Spectrum Health facilities its 12.8%.

What’s different about this COVID-19 wave are the age groups getting sick. Elderly are now mostly vaccinated.

“And we’re seeing the numbers for those under the age of 40 increase dramatically compared to the last surge increase about 54%.”

Hospitalizations are skewing younger including pediatric cases.

A contributing factor is the increasing spread of the highly contagious and lethal U.K. variant. Dr. Elmouchi points to a Houston study showing a doubling of variant cases every five to seven days.

“Surely, that same doubling is happening here. So, by the time Spring Break is over I suspect we’ll be in the 50-plus percent range which the CDC predicted by the end of March, early April, would be the predominant strain.”

Spectrum Health is asking everyone continue following safety precautions and take advantage of expanded vaccine availability.