On Monday, a Munson hospital official said there was a bit of a “disconnect with what we’re seeing in hospitals and healthcare settings and what the general public is perceiving about where we are with the pandemic right now.”

On Tuesday, the Munson network moved its pandemic response plan to stage “red” to redirect hospital resources toward the swell of rising COVID-19 hospitalizations amid staffing restraints.

It’s the first time in the hospital’s history for the move — and it’s a clear sign of schism between perception and the ground truth experienced by the people within it.

Those in the system are seeing test positivity rates of 22.2 percent and are caring for 99 COVID-19 inpatients across the Munson network. They do so with a number of other patients and amid staffing restraints.

Outside the system, life moves in an almost pre-pandemic fashion.

Government, which kept us informed in the pandemic’s beginning stages, has quieted. In Michigan, messaging responsibility pushed to local bodies — several of which took measures to quiet health department missives. COVID-19 talk is now plagued by tension, politics, misinformation and spin.

But a hospital is a hospital. It’s just a place with a finite number of beds and staff to care for the sick people who walk through its doors. No matter the world outside the hospital, all of us need to pay attention when the world inside it struggles.

Much of our original COVID-19 mitigation measures were enacted to make sure our hospitals could do the difficult work of caring for the sick in a pandemic. That’s still a concern — Munson’s move signals that — even after 18 months of wrestling, even with so many advantages available like vaccines, treatments and testing — COVID-19 remains with us.

Between 10 and 20 percent of the cases are breakthough. About 20 percent of the cases are children.

Even though all of us are tired of COVID-19 protocols, we must do our part to prevent the spread. Mask and distance yourself from others indoors in large public places, wash your hands frequently, monitor yourself for symptoms of fever, cough, loss of taste and smell, get tested if COVID-19 is a possibility and follow quarantine rules for exposure.

It will help.

At the very least — with reduced hospital services to prioritize COVID-19 care — Munson’s “red” status could mean more people will defer their health care, adding to the continuing and ongoing COVID-related backlog that impacts everything from teeth cleaning to holiday shopping.

At the most, our local death toll will continue to rise.

Twenty-four patients died between Oct. 26 and Tuesday, and our region’s grim total is 353 people lost to the disease.

Our hospital system is ringing the bell. It’s our duty to hear it.

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