Michigan's Covid wards are filling up with younger patients

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ROYAL OAK, MICHIGAN (NYTIMES)- At Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, in one of America’s worst coronavirus hot spots, entire units are still filled with Covid-19 patients.

People weak with the virus still struggle to sit up in bed. And the phone still rings with pleas to transfer patients on the verge of death to units with higher-tech equipment.

But unlike previous surges, it now is younger and middle-aged adults – not their parents and grandparents – who are taking up many of Michigan’s hospital beds.

A 37-year-old woman on a ventilator after giving birth. A 41-year-old father. A 55-year-old autoworker who has been sick for weeks.

“We’re getting to the point where we’re just so beat down,” said Ms Alexandra Budnik, an intensive care nurse who works in a unit with lifesaving machines, or circuits, that are in short supply.

“Every time we get a call or every time we hear that there’s another 40-year-old that we don’t have a circuit for, it’s just like, you know, we can’t save them all.”

Across Michigan, which is experiencing by far the country’s most dangerous outbreak, more younger people are being admitted to hospitals with the coronavirus than at any other time in the pandemic.

Michigan hospitals are now admitting about twice as many coronavirus patients in their 30s and 40s as they were during the fall peak, according to the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

The shifting demographics come as a majority of Michigan residents age 65 or older have been fully vaccinated, greatly reducing the risk to the most vulnerable and leading to fewer hospitalisations among the oldest age groups.

But the vaccinations of older people do not explain rising hospitalisations among people younger than 60, including those in their 20s and 30s.

Public health experts say the outbreak – driven by the B117 variant of the virus, which is more contagious and more severe – is spreading rapidly in younger age groups.

And across the state, doctors and nurses are increasingly reporting a concerning trend: Younger patients are coming in more