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Henry Ford Health sees encouraging signs on virus, but 'do not let your guard down'


Detroit — A Henry Ford Health System official Thursday encouraged COVID-19 shots for the unvaccinated and boosters for the vaccinated, and called on everyone to stay on guard against the virus.

"We've known from the beginning that vaccination is the best way to prevent the spread as well as serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19," said Dennis Cunningham, Henry Ford Health System's medical director of infection control and prevention. "We want to underline the importance of getting your booster shot and strongly recommend that everyone be up to date on their vaccination to be fully protected against the virus."

Cunningham made the comments during an 11:30 a.m. virtual news conference Thursday.

His remarks come a day after state officials said Michigan added 27,423 COVID-19 cases and 379 deaths from the virus, including cases from Tuesday. The newest cases raise the state's overall totals to 1,933,062 confirmed cases and 29,605 deaths since March 2020.

Also, hospitalization rates are falling from records set on Jan. 10, when 4,580 adults were hospitalized with confirmed virus infections.

Cunningham echoed Henry Ford Health officials' comments expressing optimism over a slight drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations and in staff vacancies

"As we head into the final days of January, everyone here at Henry Ford is starting to see some encouraging signs over the past week, including a decrease in the number of COVID-19 positive patients admitted to our hospitals and the decline in the overall positivity rate in our community," the doctor said. "We are hopeful these trends are going to continue."

Still, Cunningham said the virus continues to be a threat.

"There are hopeful signs that make us cautiously optimistic that we've seen the worst of the current surge," he said. "However, omicron is still very much a threat in our community and the pandemic is not over. My message is: Please do not let your guard down. Continue to adhere to the prevention strategies that protect us all."

He said in the four counties where Henry Ford Health System has facilities, about 55% of people eligible to be vaccinated against COIVD-19 have had their primary series of the vaccine. He added that only 20-30% of people in those counties are up to date on their vaccinations, meaning they received a booster. Furthermore, he said 90% of people who have been hospitalized with COVID at Henry Ford facilities have not received their booster. 

"We just can't stress enough how important the booster dose is when you're eligible," he said. "Because of low vaccination rates, it's likely that we will continue to see more variants in the future." 

Cunningham also spoke about at-home COVID-19 tests. Last week, the White House announced it was offering one billion free COVID tests to U.S. residents.

"If you're going to use them, (then) I want to share a few do's and don'ts for everyone," he said. "First, if you get a positive test, believe it. You're far more likely to have a false negative result than a false positive. If it's positive, you don't need to repeat tests at your doctor's office or the hospital.

"If your test is negative, don't consider it a free pass," Cunningham said. "If you had a known exposure, please quarantine for five days. If you have symptoms with a negative at-home test, assume you have COVID and call your doctor and health care provider."

He advises people to store their test kits at room temperature and away from sunlight or direct heat. The doctor also said the tests will still work beyond the expiration date on their labels.

cramirez@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez