Office of Development

COVID-19: How Michigan Medicine is Rising to the Challenge

Email sent on April 3, 2020


Dear Friends of Michigan Medicine,

As you know, COVID‑19 continues to spread throughout the state of Michigan, and Detroit has been identified as a city that has one of the most rapid transmission rates. I would like to provide a brief update and share with you our immediate and most pressing challenges, how we will address them, and plans for the future.

 COVID‑19 cases at Michigan Medicine. Since the weekend, we have been admitting local patients as well as taking transfers from other area hospitals that are at capacity. We have more than 170 confirmed COVID‑19 cases in the hospital with additional patients under investigation and still awaiting test results. As the percentage of positive test results continues to increase daily, we anticipate that, in the near future, we may be at capacity for ICU beds.

We are treating some of these patients in our Regional Infectious Containment Unit (RICU), but over the past weeks have been converting more rooms and units to be ICU- and ventilator‑capable. We have the ability to care for COVID‑19 patients in other units, but the need will likely exceed our capacity for ICU beds in the coming weeks.

To prepare for this, we are assessing a potential field hospital, which would be set up at the Indoor Track Building on South Campus. This temporary hospital would provide more than 500 additional beds and care for recovering, less acute COVID‑19 patients. Much planning and discussion is ongoing to evaluate this possibility.

Predictive modeling. Dr. Vikas Parekh on our faculty has developed a predictive model to help us understand the impact of social distancing on reducing the spread in our area. The bottom line is that with aggressive social distancing, we can reduce our volume significantly. While this means our peak may occur later than it would with less social distancing, the lower number of patients will significantly ease the strain on our operations. Read the full press release here.

Personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE continues to be a challenge, as it is across the country and world. We currently have adequate PPE supplies for our workforce, but we have implemented several initiatives to manage a potential PPE shortage. These include conservation and cleaning of PPE, aggressive supply chain and vendor management, and leveraging relationships with other regional organizations.

Positive stories. In these very difficult times, I have seen how crisis can bring out moments when we are at our best. Across the organization, our faculty, staff, and learners have stepped up to care for our most vulnerable patients, innovate to solve problems, and support each other. A few examples of the caliber and compassion of our workforce that exemplify the spirit of Michigan Medicine include the following:

  • More than 300 nurses have volunteered to care for COVID‑19 patients and are being redeployed to various units.

  • More than 3,000 employees have volunteered to be redeployed to contribute where it is most needed and support their peers.

  • Our pharmacy is collaborating with students from the U‑M College of Pharmacy to compound hand sanitizer and fill orders from across the institution.

  • Medical students have convened a volunteer group to support areas that need help, like call centers, testing labs, and clinical and simulation training.

  • Protective shields for close‑proximity ophthalmology equipment have been designed, manufactured, and distributed throughout all eye clinics as a result of the Kellogg Eye Center’s partnership with the U‑M College of Engineering.

The community has also shown an outpouring of support for our frontline staff by offering financial and supply/food donations. Our donation center has been very busy, and we have had a tremendous response to our COVID‑19 Philanthropic Fund, but will continue to need more resources. To learn about how to support both efforts, visit our COVID‑19 response page.

I thank you for your ongoing support. This pandemic has shown us that we can face adversity and conquer challenges when our community comes together to support each other and those who are on the front lines of health care. This video featuring our employees is a reflection of that. Stay safe.


Marschall S. Runge, M.D., Ph.D.

Dean, University of Michigan Medical School

Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, U‑M

CEO, Michigan Medicine