LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan now has the poorest coronavirus metrics in the nation, ranking no. 1 among states for number of cases, case rate, hospitalizations and ICU utilization, state health officials say.
This as Michigan on Wednesday announced 8,015 more confirmed cases of the virus and 30 more related deaths. The state has now recorded a total of 715,478 confirmed cases of the virus since the pandemic started and 16,327 related deaths.
On Tuesday, labs tested 39,451 samples for the virus and 7,065 were positive, a percentage of 17.91%. The number of positive tests is not the same as the number of new cases because people may be tested more than once. Additionally, testing numbers are from a single calendar date, while the number of new cases lists the increase since the last time the state compiled the data; these two time frames do not match up precisely.
RISING CASE, TEST POSITIVITY AND HOSPITALIZATION RATES
Dr. Sarah Lyon-Callo, director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health at Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, hosted a virtual briefing Wednesday morning to break down information about testing, disease trends, outbreaks, hospitalizations, deaths, vaccinations and trajectory of the virus.
The state’s case rate has been on the rise for six weeks and has increased 375% since the Feb. 19 low. It jumped about 50% in the last week alone. The seven-day average of the test positivity rate is 16.5%, more than five times the 3% threshold that public health officials look for to show the spread of the virus is controlled.
People age 20-39 are seeing the highest rates, though the 10-19 age range is also seeing an all-time high. The rates are lower among those older than 70, who are more likely to be vaccinated.
K-12 schools now seeing more outbreaks than any other setting, including long-term care facilities. The state counted 81 new outbreaks at K-12 schools last week alone, bringing the total number of ongoing outbreaks at K-12 schools, colleges and universities to 329. While plenty of elementary schools have seen outbreaks, defined as two cases outside a household linked by location, the numbers are generally quite small. High schools generally post higher numbers, and colleges higher numbers still.
Despite hundreds of case clusters linked to indoor sports — particularly basketball, hockey and wrestling — the state has not stopped play, instead relying on a rapid testing program for students and pointing to the fact that the winter season is nearly over. MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said there was hope that outdoor spring sports would lead to fewer outbreaks.
Hertel added that the state was asking middle and high schools to consider going virtual for two weeks after spring break to limit virus spread linked to travel.
“We are encouraging our school districts and our local health departments to consider moving middle school and high school back to virtual for one or two weeks following those breaks to try to continue to slow the spread of the variant among this age group,” Hertel added.
Hospitalizations have about doubled in the last two weeks alone and 1,000 people were admitted in the last week alone. The region of the state that includes Grand Rapids saw the sharpest increase in hospitalizations in that period.
Even though hospitals have been increasingly stressed, Hertel expressed confidence in their ability to handle the surge.
“We’re also in contact often with the hospitals on any resources and support they may need. They are beginning to look at implementing some of their surge plans again,” she said. “We know that our hospitals are well-equipped to handle these surges. We’ve seen them do it a number of times now, unfortunately, and we will remain here ready to support them in whatever they need.”
Statewide, those age 60-69 are being hospitalized at the highest rates, followed by those age 50-59. Those older 70 or older are being hospitalized at a lower rate than during the spring 2020 and fall surges.
The mortality rate, though it remains low, is increasing again. Michigan now ranks 12th in the nation for number of deaths and 28th in the death rate.
Wednesday’s county-by-county data release from MDHHS included one more death in Kent County, bringing its total to 692. Kent County also confirmed 438 more cases for a total of 55,554.
Four other West Michigan counties also saw additional deaths:
- Calhoun County: One more death for 233 total; 10,063 total confirmed cases since March 2020.
- Muskegon County: Three more deaths for 303 total; 11,463 total cases.
- Ottawa County: Two more deaths for 336 total; 24,529 total cases.
- Van Buren County: One more death for 90 total; 5,413 total cases.
Wayne County, where Detroit is, reported three more deaths for a total of 4,063 and confirmed 1,656 cases for a total of 118,350. Neighboring Oakland County has had 81,263 confirmed cases (1,014 more than the previous day) and 1,961 deaths (two more). Macomb County has had 72,883 cases (1,015 more) and 1,946 deaths (one more).
The good news on the trajectory of the pandemic is that the vaccine rollout is going faster. Michigan has so far received nearly 5.7 million vaccine doses and nearly 4.9 million of those have been administered.
The record for doses administered in a single day is more than 122,000. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has set a goal for the state to start averaging 100,000 doses per day; last week, it averaged about 78,600.
The state says that through end of March, it counted 246 people considered fully vaccinated who contracted the virus — they call those breakthrough cases. Eleven of the patients were known to be hospitalized. Three died; all were older than 65. The number of breakthrough cases accounts for less than 1% of those who have been fully vaccinated. Additionally, the people who did catch it were less likely to be hospitalized.
Lyon-Callo pointed out that the vaccine doesn’t completely eliminate the risk of infection, but it does minimize it significantly. She said until more of the population is vaccinated and the case rate drops, even those who have their shots should wash their hands frequently, practice social distancing and wear masks.
“It’s very easy to become COVID-fatigued … however, the virus never gets fatigued,” Lyon-Callo said.
Lyon-Callo said health officials will be watching to see if there is a post-Easter spike, but added there is hope for lower numbers and freer movement as vaccine distribution continues.
“I’m very optimistic for the summer,” she said.
On CNN Tuesday, Whitmer said she also thinks it’s possible for Michigan to fully reopen this summer.
“I think it’s very possible that there is a path out of a lot of the orders that we’ve had to issue to keep people safe,” the governor told CNN.
That will depend on the state reaching its goal of getting 70% of eligible people vaccinated. Right now, nearly 38% of the population over 16 has gotten at least one dose.
Speaking with WLNS, WOOD TV8’s Lansing sister station, on Wednesday morning, Whitmer blamed the current surge on a “compliance problem” rather than a policy problem, also referencing the spread of variants and more people who travel south for the winter returning to the state.
“We’re going to continue to watch hospitalization rates. But at this point, while we see our numbers high, it’s nothing like what we saw last fall or last spring in terms of mortality rates, in terms of what it’s meaning for people who are being on ventilators. So that’s very positive,” Whitmer said. “We put that off, we bought a lot of time where we now have vaccines, and that’s where we’ve got to spend our energy.”
Michigan still has a mask mandate and restrictions on gatherings.