Spectrum Health team members have been on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19 for two years. (Taylor Ballek | Spectrum Health Beat)

While the number of patients with COVID-19 at Spectrum Health remains high—about 400 as of late January—there has not been a significant rise in admissions over the past few weeks.

And that’s good news.

There has, however, been an increase in children hospitalized with COVID-19 at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Spectrum Health West Michigan President Darryl Elmouchi, MD, MBA, talked recently about what he’s seeing right now—and shared some hope for what he sees on the horizon.

Q: What do hospitalizations look like right now?

Most Spectrum Health teams are in a holding pattern right now. Hospital census has been high for months, but it plateaued over the past few weeks.

“The good news, that number really hasn’t gone up,” Dr. Elmouchi said. “The challenging news, that number really hasn’t gone down.”

Q: Do you see COVID-19 admissions going down soon?

Spectrum Health continues to see community positivity rates slowly decreasing. Clinical leaders hope the numbers will continue in that direction.

“We’re feeling better and better each day, because we’ve seen that positivity number come down,” Dr. Elmouchi said.

If this trend continues, there should be fewer admissions in the coming weeks.

Q: How many children are being hospitalized for COVID-19?

A record number of children with COVID-19 are being admitted to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital—and this has been one of the most challenging and frustrating parts of the omicron surge, Dr. Elmouchi said.

In late January, about 30 children were being treated at Spectrum Health on any given day, many of them quite ill.

Prior to omicron, Spectrum Health treated fewer than 20 children per day for COVID—and typically that number was in the low teens.

“This is a substantial increase,” he said.

Q: Are children with COVID-19 experiencing other illnesses?

Omicron is extremely transmissible and highly contagious, and there are some children who test positive after being admitted to the hospital for a different reason.

But most children hospitalized with COVID-19 right now are being treated for symptoms related to COVID-19, such as pneumonia. And many are quite ill.

“The majority of kids admitted with COVID are here because of COVID,” Dr. Elmouchi said.

Q: Any news on COVID-19 variants and what to expect?

The current COVID-19 variant circulating, other than omicron, is referred to as BA.1, and there’s also a subversion referred to as BA.2.

Early data shows it’s behaving similar to omicron.

“Whether it will be a clinical concern beyond what we’re seeing, most experts at this point don’t think so,” Dr. Elmouchi said.

Q: What is the “People Behind the Mask” campaign?

Spectrum Health team members have worked to provide care to patients throughout this pandemic, often under very difficult circumstances—a high volume of patients, many battling severe illness.

“We really have been at war with this pandemic for two years,” Dr. Elmouchi said. “Hospital and health care workers were on the front lines of this war. It’s been hard on everyone.”

The goal of this campaign is to put a face behind the mask.

“To make people realize these are real people caring for you,” he said. “To please consider that and treat everyone with respect.”

Q: What can the community do to help Spectrum Health team members?

Treat people with respect—and share a smile.

In his practice of medicine, Dr. Elmouchi always saw the smiles and thanks-you’s from patients as the best part.

“Just realize that person, even if they’re running a little late, is there for you,” he said.