GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Michigan sees several encouraging metrics indicating a decline in the spread of coronavirus, state health officials reminded everyone to keep following mitigation practices to keep it that way.
According to the latest state data released Wednesday afternoon, Michigan’s tally of deaths linked to COVID-19 rose by two and an additional 657 cases of the virus were confirmed. That brings the total number of deaths to 6,221 and the total number of cases to 84,707 since the virus was first detected in Michigan about five months ago.
Dr. Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said at a Wednesday morning press conference with the governor that Michigan is seeing a plateau in cases after a slight uptick over the past two months, though spread continues to vary by region.
The Detroit, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo regions are each seeing more than 40 new cases per million people per day but have seen steady decreases for between two and and three weeks. The Jackson and Upper Peninsula regions are seeing 35 cases per million people per day after a decrease in the last couple of weeks. The figure is below 30 in the Saginaw region and has been decreasing for a week. Lansing’s rate is still under 30, but it has been seeing an increase for the last two weeks. The Traverse City region is seeing under 10 cases per million people per day and the rate has been declining for three weeks.
Statewide, the seven-day average of the rate was just shy of 37 as of Sunday. Khaldun said she would like to see it below 10.
After weeks on the inline, the average percentage of daily positive tests is trending down. It’s now at 3.4%, down from 3.7% last week. Khaldun would still like to push that rate below 3%, which would indicate community spread is under control.
The positive percentage for Tuesday was 3.17%. Labs tested 28,525 samples for the virus and 905 were positive. The number of positive tests is higher than the number of new confirmed cases because some people may be tested more than once, but the state says its reporting system is set up to ensure a single person cannot account for more than one case.
Michigan is running an average of 28,000 tests each day, which works out to about 2% of the state’s population each week.
Hospitalizations and deaths remain consistently low, Khaldun said.
“These are all good signs… But as we all know, even if it a trend is stabilizing, it only takes a few people to create an outbreak and have the disease spread rapidly. So these plateauing trends are not reasons to let our guard down,” Khaldun said. “There’s still disease spread across the state and we’re still seeing several outbreaks across the state, in every region.”
She urged everyone to wash their hands frequently, wear a mask in public and practice 6-foot social distancing. Anyone working outside the home, experiencing symptoms or who has been exposed to someone with coronavirus is advised to get tested.
In the Wednesday afternoon data update, the number of deaths in Wayne County was revised down by one to 2,682. This is not unusual as public health officials double-check cases and occasionally move one to another jurisdiction. Wayne County confirmed 106 more cases for a total of 26,076 since the outbreak began.
In neighboring Oakland County, there have been 11,769 cases (81 more than the day previous) and 1,085 deaths (one more). Macomb County has had 9,570 cases (95 more) and 900 deaths (no change).
Kent County confirmed 28 more cases for a total of 6,673 since the start of the outbreak. The number of deaths remained unchanged at 151.
Ottawa County had one more death, bringing its total to 50. It has had 1,658 confirmed cases.
Eighty-four more cases were identified within the Michigan Department of Corrections, which has now dealt with a total of 4,318 cases among inmates. A prison in Muskegon is testing all of its inmates amid an outbreak. As of Wednesday, 155 cases had been identified at the Muskegon Correctional Facility.
WHITMER GUARDED ON LOOSENING MORE RESTRICTIONS
Last week, Whitmer tightened some restrictions in the northern Lower Peninsula, which is seeing the most promising figures in the state. Asked Wednesday if that means she won’t be loosening restrictions elsewhere in the state before school starts, she refused — as she has done throughout the outbreak — to make any promises either way, saying her decisions would be based on what the data shows.
But she also indicated that the lag in identifying cases after exposure — it can take up to two weeks for symptoms to develop — made her wary about forward movement.
“We know that our actions today are going to dictate whether or not we are in a strong position to safely resume some in-person instruction this fall,” Whitmer said. “We’re trying to avoid moving back a phase. That’s something I’m hopeful we can prevent from happening. But it’s all going to be dictated by what people do and we will see it in the numbers…”
She said that while a plateau in cases is encouraging, she would prefer to see a decline.
Whitmer on Tuesday issued an executive directive requiring each state department head to review how they are using resources to ensure enforcement of COVID-19 mitigation rules, placing special focus on the types of places that have seen outbreaks. Directors were also told to consider rule violations when considering licensing.
She said Wednesday the order was geared toward “flagrant violations,” though most businesses were following the rules and compliance was increasing in stores.
“It’s about increasing compliance (with best health practices). It’s not focused on punishing those who don’t,” she said of all her executive orders. “It’s about increasing the knowledge, the understanding and really trying to change the culture.”
Whitmer started Wednesday’s press conference by criticizing the federal government’s response to the pandemic, saying there has been no comprehensive plan and again calling on President Donald Trump to issue a nationwide mask mandate.
She called on the Trump administration and Congress to work together to pass another coronavirus relief package, which has been tied up amid partisan disputes. While she called for bipartisanship, the Democratic governor disparaged the plan put forth by Senate Republicans. She said they should back the plan already passed by the Democrat-led House.