Effect of Thanksgiving travel yet to be seen in Michigan coronavirus data


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she expects to see coronavirus cases rise after “too many people traveled for Thanksgiving” — though it’s too soon for the state data to show such an increase — and that we’ll likely see another spike after Christmas.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat this: The next couple of months are going to be hard,” Whitmer said.

“Our case numbers, our hospitalizations and deaths are dangerously high already,” she continued. “Even with our targeted and temporary actions to slow the spread, we expect to see numbers increase over the coming weeks and months as more people travel for the holidays.”

Whitmer made her comments at a Tuesday afternoon briefing in Lansing, joined as usual by Michigan’s chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. They encouraged people not to travel and instead celebrate holidays only with their household and to follow other health safety practices to help control the spread of the virus.

Whitmer said her administration is still considering whether the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will extend restrictions limiting indoor gatherings that are currently set to expire in one week.

“It’s really too early to say precisely where we will be in a few days, much less next week,” she said. “We’ve not predetermined anything. It’s going to be driven by where we see the numbers.”

She expected a decision would come early next week.

As she has done throughout the outbreak, she declined to set specific benchmarks in the metrics, saying context is key.


Michigan on Tuesday announced an additional 5,793 more cases of the virus had been confirmed and 190 more deaths linked to it. Of those deaths, 30 were discovered during a routine check of death certificates to find any that had not previously been reported to the state.

The virus has now infected 366,242 people in Michigan since first being detected in the state in March and contributed to 9,324 deaths.

On Monday, labs in Michigan tested 35,155 samples for the virus and 5,175 came back positive, a rate of 14.72%. 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.

Kent County alone confirmed 487 cases of the virus for a total of 32,307 since the start of the outbreak. It also saw nine more deaths for a total of 356.

Including the Kent County deaths, there were 54 additional deaths in West Michigan counties:

  • Allegan County: One more death for 29 total; 3,805 total confirmed cases since the start of the outbreak nearly nine months ago.
  • Berrien County: One more death for 112 total; 6,467 total cases.
  • Branch County: Four more deaths for 34 total; 2,133 total cases.
  • Calhoun County: Two more deaths for 118 total; 5,458 total cases.
  • Cass County: One more death for 30 total; 2,095 total cases.
  • Ionia County: Five more deaths for 20 total; 2,443 total cases.
  • Kalamazoo County: Three more deaths for 164 total; 8,425 total cases.
  • Muskegon County: 14 more deaths for 183 total; 7,408 total cases.
  • Oceana County: Five more deaths for 21 total; 1,172 total cases.
  • Ottawa County: Four more deaths for 146 total; 13,457 total cases.
  • St. Joseph County: Two more deaths for 34 total; 2,402 total cases.
  • Van Buren County: Three more deaths for 45 total; 2,800 total cases.

Wayne County, initially Michigan’s hot spot for the virus but no longer seeing the worst case rates, confirmed 692 more cases of the virus for a total of 61,385. It also recorded 15 more deaths for a total of 3,063. Neighboring Oakland County has had 41,818 total cases (527 more than the previous day) and 1,308 deaths (three more). Macomb County has had 36,738 cases (623 more) and 1,235 deaths (13 more).


Khaldun expressed cautious optimism about the metrics that show the status of the outbreak, saying it looks like “more people started doing the right thing towards the beginning of November,” though it’s important to note that despite slight improvements, figures remain high.

“We’ll continue to watch these trends as we have throughout the pandemic in case rates and test positivity, and especially looking for those increases from the Thanksgiving holiday,” Khaldun said. “That is one thing I am very concerned about, is that people may have gathered or traveled over the Thanksgiving break. Any increases in cases from the Thanksgiving holiday we would not expect to see for two to three weeks in our data.”

Khaldun said anybody who did travel or gather with others outside their household should try to stay away from others for 14 days.

The seven-day average of cases per million people per day in Michigan is above 430, more than three times higher than the spring peak, but Khaldun noted it has been on the decline for the past week. The Jackson region is currently seeing the highest rate at more than 556 new cases per million per day, followed by West Michigan (about 514) and Southwest Michigan (about 499). The Traverse City region continues to see the best rate in the state, with about 354 cases per million people per day.

Michigan is averaging about 66 deaths per day in the last seven days, though it has averaged 96 so far this calendar week.

The seven-day average percentage of daily positive tests is 13.5%, slightly better than last week but still more than four times the 3% that public health officials say demonstrates community spread is controlled.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has it, health officials want you to get tested. You can find a testing site near you at Michigan.gov/coronavirustest.

As of Tuesday, state data showed 4,289 adults in the hospital were either suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. As of Tuesday morning, Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health said it had 309 patients, a decline of 21 from the previous day. While hospitalizations have been high and climbing in recent weeks, hospitals still have plenty of ventilators to go around.

Insurance providers Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Priority Health said Tuesday they will keep waiving all out-of-pocket payments for COVID-19 patients through March 31.

Whitmer also noted “there is hope on the horizon,” with two companies’ vaccines nearing emergency use approval from the federal government — probably in a matter of days rather than weeks.

Khaldun said the first doses of vaccine available will go to health care workers and those who work in long-term care facilities. Priority added that it will have no copay on the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’re Michiganders and we have grit. We’ve come this far. A few more months and we will see the light at the end of this tunnel,” Whitmer said. “We’re tough enough to beat any crisis that comes our way. We’ve done it in the past. We can do this.”



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