COVID-19 Delta Variant Cases Increasing in Michigan

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) now confirms that 90-percent of new cases in Michigan are the Delta variant. Officials expect the numbers to continue to rise.

With the Delta variant causing COVID-19 cases to rise in the United States, health care professionals are continuing to urge Americans to get their COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, more than 99-percent of all deaths from COVID-19 infections are in unvaccinated persons.

“The vaccine does exactly what it should, which is minimize the symptoms, prevent you from getting hospitalized, prevent you from getting sick, and prevent you from dying,” said Andrew Jameson, MD, FACP, division chief of Infectious Diseases and regional medical director of Infection Control at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.

Initial data is showing that mRNA vaccines are still protective against the Delta variant, so getting your COVID-19 vaccine can help prevent infection and severe illness. The COVID-19 vaccine reduces the risk for hospitalization and death by over 95-percent.

“Think of a vaccine as a way for your immune system to practice for a virus. Vaccines give the body a preview of one or more key features of a virus before you get the actual virus,” said Liberty Jacques, DNP, director of Nursing Practice and Development for Mercy Health Saint Mary’s and the director of Infection Prevention and COVID-19 service line. “Due to the vaccine, the immune system develops a ‘memory’ of how to react and stop the virus once you are exposed to it. The immune system can quickly recognize the actual coronaviruses and interfere with its ability to multiply.”

A variant is a strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. There are currently 11 variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that the World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring. When a virus is widely circulating in a population and causing many infections, the likelihood of the virus mutating increases. The more opportunities a virus has to spread, the more it copies – and the more opportunities it has to undergo changes. Most viral mutations have little to no impact on the virus’s ability to cause infections and disease. However, depending on where the changes are located in the virus’s genetic material, they may affect a virus’s properties, such as transmission (for example, it may spread more or less easily) or severity (it may cause more or less severe disease).

The Delta variant is more transmissible and has one-thousand times more viral load than other variants, meaning it is more infectious and causes harsher sickness. The time between exposure and developing symptoms is also much quicker with the Delta variant.

“This pandemic is not over. Delta is more contagious than any other variant so far,” said Claudia Jarrin, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at Mercy Health Muskegon. “The most important weapon we have against COVID is vaccination.”

While getting the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t guarantee immunity against the variant, it can lessen effects. Those fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine have 88-percent protection against symptomatic COVID-19 and 95-percent protection against hospitalization and death. Initial reports show Moderna is equally as protective against the Delta variant. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine appears 66-percent protective against the Delta variant.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) now confirms that 90-percent of new cases in Michigan are the Delta variant. Officials expect the numbers to continue to rise.

“Any time we have a case where someone was vaccinated and tests positive for COVID, we always send that out and the state and county health department test that,” said Dr. Jameson. “We send off specimens regularly to see what’s circulating in the community. There is Delta circulating and that’s not terribly surprising. This virus has the ability to transmit faster, better and more effectively, and when it starts reaching a community it will take over.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reinstated mask mandates and is continuing to urge vaccinations even as some studies show vaccinated individuals can spread COVID-19.  

“This risk is down dramatically to transmit the virus even though it is not zero after vaccination,” said Dr. Jameson. “The big safety increase comes when we are at a much lower chance of getting COVID in the first place.”

Health care professionals are already seeing numbers rise week by week, and that’s why hot spots in the south – where there are lower vaccination rates – are seeing more COVID-19 infections, hospital admittances, and death.

“The places getting hit bad are those that have lower vaccine percentages than we do,” said Dr. Jameson. “Another reason cases are rising in the south at a higher pace than the north is because, as it gets hot outside, people go inside to the air conditioning. We’re not at that same pace yet but we will have cases go up and we will see people getting sick and dying. It is brutal because there’s a safe, effective vaccine to prevent that.”

COVID-19 Vaccines Protective Against Delta Variant

You’ve likely seen the latest news about the COVID-19 variant quickly becoming the prominent strain in the U.S. It is spreading rapidly and is now responsible for over 51% of new U.S. cases, up from 30% two weeks ago.

The COVID-19 delta variant is found to be about 60% more transmissible than original COVID-19 strain. The latest CDC data shows that due to the COVID-19 delta variant new cases over the last week have increased 9.1% around the country. As of June 30, on average, one COVID-19 related death is still occurring every seven minutes in the U.S. The best measure of protection we have against all variants is the COVID-19 vaccine.

Those fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have 88% protection against symptomatic COVID-19 and 95% protection against hospitalization and death from the Delta variant. Moderna by initial reports seems equally protective against the delta variant. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine appears 66% protective against the delta variant.

Millions of people have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring of any vaccine in U.S. history. Serious adverse events after vaccination are rare.

Trinity Health Requires COVID-19 Vaccine for All Colleagues

Our Core Value of Safety means we do everything we can to protect people. That’s why effective July 8, Trinity Health requires all colleagues, clinical staff, contractors and those conducting business in our facilities be vaccinated against COVID-19. See the announcement for additional information.  

Action Needed 

Submit documentation of your COVID-19 vaccine through the methods outlined below. The process is different for SJMHS colleagues and providers, IHA colleagues and providers, and affiliated providers. Colleagues who are not able to be vaccinated for strongly held religious beliefs or rare medical reasons will be required to apply for an exemption.  

Colleagues who do not fulfill the requirement to be vaccinated by the dates outlined and do not have an approved exemption will be subject to termination of their employment and/or loss of their privileges.   

How to Submit Documentation

SJMHS and Mercy Health Colleagues: Submit a copy of your vaccination card or other document your provider gave you as proof you received the vaccine within the HR4U colleague portal at HR4U.trinity-health.org/. You can access HR4U on a computer or smartphone browser.

IHA Colleagues and Providers: IHA colleagues and providers are not part of the HR4U portal. Instead, they should use the Vaccine Documentation portal on IHA’s Intranet (SharePoint) page. All questions may be directed to HR Business Partners.

Affiliated Providers: Affiliated providers should work directly with their respective Medical Staff Offices to submit documentation of their vaccine.

Key Dates

DateInformationAffected
July 8, 2021COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement effective for all Trinity Health colleagues, clinical staff and business partnersNew Hires, Colleagues, Leaders, Medical Staff, Business Partners
August 6, 2021Deadline for management to submit exemption request via HR4U colleague portal; IHA to use Vaccine Documentation portal on IHA’s Intranet (SharePoint) pageColleagues with a Workday management level of manager, director, vice president or senior officer
August 20, 2021Deadline for colleagues to submit exemption request via HR4U colleague portal; IHA to use Vaccine Documentation portal on IHA’s Intranet (SharePoint) pageColleagues with a Workday management level of supervisor, coordinator, or any other role
August 24, 2021Last day for management to receive last dose of vaccine and submit documentation to HR4U; IHA to use Vaccine Documentation portal on IHA’s Intranet (SharePoint) pageColleagues with a Workday management level of manager, director, vice president or senior officer
September 21, 2021Last day for colleagues to receive last dose of vaccine and submit documentation to HR4U; IHA to use Vaccine Documentation portal on IHA’s Intranet (SharePoint) page  Colleagues with a Workday management level of supervisor, coordinator, or all other positions

We know you may still have questions about the vaccine. More resources are available below, including a recording from the July 13 town hall. We will hold another town hall in August. Thank you for your continued work to make Trinity Health a trusted health care partner for the communities we serve.

More Information  

Hospitalized for 208 Days, Local COVID-19 Survivor Returns Home

LIVONIA – After 208 days in the hospital, Terry DiLaura was recently discharged from St. Mary Mercy Livonia.  It’s been a long, difficult journey for Terry, who, prior to his COVID-19 diagnosis in December 2020, had never been seriously sick or hospitalized in his life.  His seven month journey took him to many area hospitals and rehab facilities, and along the way he experienced many health setbacks.  Eventually, he ended up at St. Mary Mercy, a hospital he says was “by far the best I had been to.”

When he was diagnosed with COVID-19 in December, it developed into a very serious illness.  He was put on a ventilator and his prognosis was not good.  Physcians at another area hospital told him that “he wasn’t expected to walk or talk ever again.”

From the beginning Terry’s wife Mary never gave up hope.  She was his strongest advocate.  According to Terry, Mary provided a mix of love and a “a good ol’ fashion cracking of the whip” to make sure he was doing everything he had to do to get better.

There were many difficult nights along the way.  Due to visitor restrictions, Mary couldn’t see her husband for 72 days.  During that time she would park in the parking lot of the hospital, so that she could be close to him, and she would Zoom him from her car.

Had it not been for Mary and all of Terry’s nurses and doctors at St. Mary Mercy, he very well might not be alive today.

On Thursday, July 1, Terry was discharged home from St. Mary Mercy Livonia to the applause of his team of caregivers, all of whom came together to organize his sendoff.

Looking forward, Terry is working as hard to improve his walking and stability so that he can return to work at General Motors.

“I’m working as hard as I can to be the best I can be so that I can go back to work,” he said.  “I want to go back to work where I can retire on my own terms.  I want to walk back in there on my own two legs.”

With enormous gratitude and humility, Terry went on to say, “I have a new lease on life and I don’t intend to take anything for granted anymore.”

The entire team at St. Mary Mercy Livonia wishes Terry well on his journey.  We all continue to pray for him, and cheer on his recovery.

Steps to Take for Friends and Family Who Are Interested in the COVID-19 Vaccine

Now that COVID-19 vaccine eligibility requirements have expanded in Michigan, many in our community are seeking vaccine appointments. At Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, we have opened an eligibility questionnaire within MyChart to help determine who is interested in receiving the vaccine. Instructions are included below.

Those interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine should sign up or log in to their MyChart account at www.stjoeshealth.org/mychart. Once in MyChart, the questionnaire form is available on the home page to be filled out. Please complete the form to indicate your interest in the vaccine.

Vaccine eligibility questionnaire notification in MyChart

If vaccine appointments open at any of our locations, you may be notified either by email or text from MyChart to schedule an appointment at one of our hospital or physician office locations that has available vaccine. The notification is not immediate, and the length of time before you receive a notification may vary depending on vaccine availability. The link can be found on St. Joe’s scheduling webpage at https://www.stjoeshealth.org/health-and-wellness/covid-19/schedule-vaccine.

Please be aware that completing this survey does not guarantee a scheduled appointment, as appointments are based on vaccine availability. We encourage you to take advantage of all alternatives to receive the vaccine through your local health department or pharmacy should you be given an opportunity to be vaccinated. Thank you for your continued patience.

For the latest COVID-19 vaccine information, please visit www.stjoeshealth.org/health-and-wellness/covid-19/vaccine.

St. Joe’s Oakland Selected for Trinity Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Social Media, Community Engagement Campaign

OAKLAND – Trinity Health is proud to announce the launch of It Starts Here, a $1.6 million COVID-19 vaccine campaign designed to engage community influencers. Twenty-four health ministries were chosen across Trinity Health for this campaign, including St. Joseph Mercy Oakland. The campaign’s goals are to accelerate local efforts to:

  • Build trust in the vaccine and community capacity to offer vaccine clinics.
  • Raise awareness and educate the public about the vaccine.
  • Offer vaccination in accessible locations, particularly for communities of color and those who are vulnerable, such as the elderly or homeless.

This exciting new campaign includes community health and well-being grant funding for local community-based organizations.  By engaging local influencers who represent the culture and ethnicity of the people in our communities we plan to improve access to COVID-19 vaccination and education.

“The It Starts Here campaign is an opportunity for Trinity Health to increase awareness and support local actions that will save lives,” said Julie Washington, chief marketing, communications and experience officer.

“COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color and those who are vulnerable,” added David Bowman, Director, Community Health & Well-being at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland.

“St. Joseph Mercy Oakland is committed to being a transforming and healing presence in the communities we serve, especially Pontiac. The It Starts Here campaign demonstrates this commitment.”

All Trinity Health regions are receiving grant funding with local Health Ministry funding levels ranging from $30,000-$75,000. Seventeen of the twenty-four ministries and nearly 80 percent of dollars awarded are supporting prioritized communities—defined as 40 percent non-white and/or Native American.

One hundred percent of grant dollars will be provided to community-based organizations to support community outreach activities, which run now through the end of the year and include, but are not limited to:

  • Community Champions providing door-to-door outreach/canvassing
  • Virtual Townhalls, community meetings with local experts
  • Coordinating outreach and vaccine events alongside food assistance organizations
  • Local social media influencers to provide vaccine information to their online followers
  • Telephone outreach to ensure patients are aware of local vaccination opportunities
  • Vaccine clinic scheduling and registration
  • Transportation to vaccine events
  • Mini-grants to community-based and faith-based organizations to engage in grassroots outreach campaigns
  • Interpreter services provided during vaccine clinics

Locally, Marketing and Communications has partnered with Community Health and Well-Being to make this campaign possible, using grants to fund local work. If you have any questions, please contact David Bowman at david.bowman001@stjoeshealth.org.

Local Livonia Retiree Thanks Staff After Recovering from COVID-19

LIVONIA – Our St. Mary Mercy Livonia family extends its warmest wishes to Roger Jones and his wife Terri. Roger, a local Livonia retiree, was recently discharged home from St. Mary Mercy after being admitted to the hospital on January 18, following complications from COVID-19. 

Following a positive COVID-19 test in late December, Roger had been in isolation at home when his health quickly deteriorated. In fact, as he tells it, he doesn’t have any recollection beyond the ambulance ride to the hospital.

After spending a day on a ventilator in the hospital, Roger’s condition improved, he began breathing on his own again, and he regained consciousness.

“In the beginning, I was scared to death. I remember sitting up in the hospital alone thinking, tonight might be the night I die.”

Fortunately for Roger, his doctors and nurses had other plans for him.

After a slow but steady improvement over two weeks, Roger was transferred to inpatient rehabilitation. For the next 50 days, this is where Roger would eat, sleep and push himself to get stronger.

“Basically couldn’t do anything when I arrived in rehab,” he said. “I couldn’t walk and I could hardly move my arms.”

“My first day there I remember one of the female workers asking me if I could do something for her,” he said. “I told her, ‘I can’t.'”

“She responded by telling me that I needed to get that word out of my vocabulary. It was the best advice I could have ever received.”

“Rehab was wonderful,” he said. “They were very patient and encouraging with me. The encouragement was just as valuable as the actual therapy I received, and it came from everybody.”

While Roger still has much work to do, he has come a long way from those precarious first few days he spent in the hospital.

“God gave me a second chance and I’m not going to mess it up,” he said.

Asked what plans he had for when he returned home, he responded, “I want to see my kids and my grandkids. I have a lot more work to do too.”

St. Joe’s Oakland Marking COVID-19 Anniversary with Week of Events

OAKLAND – On March 15, St. Joe’s Oakland marks the one-year anniversary of COVID-19’s arrival at our hospital. We have faced much together in a year marked by uncertainty, fear, loss, and grief. Our colleagues have demonstrated immense courage and compassion these past twelve months, and we are so proud and grateful for you.

Over the course of the week, we will place tables with posters and markers in various locations throughout the hospital to give you an opportunity to reflect on the past year, and to honor any loved ones lost. We have also gathered colleague interviews and compiled them into a video reflection, which we will send to all colleagues next week.

In addition, we will hold the following events:

Monday, March 15:

  • Remembrance Service, to be held at noon. The service will be available virtually here: WebEx Link

Tuesday, March 16:

  • Anne Dohrenwend, Regional Wellness Coach, will host a virtual session on resilience during difficult times:  WebEx Link

Friday, March 19:

  • Bench Dedication Ceremony, to be held in the South Tower Lobby at noon. The bench will eventually be installed on the grounds of The Farm.

Thank you for your engagement as we pause together to reflect on our shared experiences, to honor those lost, and to look to the future with hope.

How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to get the illness. Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer protection, but with all types of vaccines, the body is left with a supply of “memory” cells that will remember how to fight that virus in the future. 

It typically takes a few weeks after your last dose of vaccine for your body to have the highest level of protection. 

Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever, muscle aches, feeling tired. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity. 

Types of Vaccines 

Currently, there are two types of COVID-19 vaccines that are authorized for emergency use in the United States. None of these vaccines can give you COVID-19 because they do not contain any live COVID virus. 

mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build cells that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future. (Moderna, Pfizer- BioNTech) 

Vector vaccines contain a weakened version of a live virus — a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19 — that has genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 inserted in it (this is called a viral vector). Once the viral vector is inside our cells, the genetic material gives cells instructions to make a protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Using these instructions, our cells make copies of the protein. This prompts our bodies to build cells that will remember how to fight that virus if we are infected in the future. (Johnson and Johnson) 

Most COVID-19 Vaccines Require More Than One Shot 

All but one of the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently authorized for emergency use in the United States use two shots. The first shot starts building protection. A second shot a few weeks later is needed to get the most protection the vaccine has to offer. One vaccine (Johnson and Johnson) only needs one shot to provide protection. 

The Bottom Line 

Getting vaccinated is one of many steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.  Protection from COVID-19 is critically important because for some people, it can cause severe illness or death. All vaccines have been proven to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death. It doesn’t matter which vaccine you get, just get vaccinated when it is your turn. 

Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like masks and physical distancing, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19. 

Things to Know About COVID-19 Vaccination Following Johnson & Johnson’s EUA 

  1. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now approved three COVID-19 vaccines for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). It is the first single-dose vaccine approved for EUA. 
  2. Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine uses a harmless adenovirus to activate an immune response to the coronavirus spike protein. It shows mild side effects like other vaccines. 
  3. Clinical trials showed a 72 percent efficacy against COVID-19 infection and 86 percent efficacy against severe illness and death in those who received the vaccine. No COVID-19 deaths were reported in those vaccinated during clinical trials. 
  4. It doesn’t matter which vaccine you receive. The most important thing is to get vaccinated when it is your turn. Vaccination is the most effective way to end the COVID-19 pandemic and protect yourself and those you come in contact with. 
  5. As health care professionals, we have the responsibility to continue to be leaders in our communities. Please encourage everyone to get educated about the vaccine’s safety and get vaccinated when supplies are available to them. Also, remind the people in your life of the importance of wearing with a mask, washing hands often, avoiding crowds and staying at least 6 feet away from others.