GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Public health officials say Michigan appears to have avoided a coronavirus surge linked to Thanksgiving and again called on residents not to gather for the December holidays to keep case rates on a downward trend.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said Tuesday that she was “cautiously optimistic” about metrics demonstrating there was no surge, saying it showed many people avoided gathering with anyone outside their household for Thanksgiving. She urged people to do the same for Christmas and other December holidays.
“Our metrics to track how COVID-19 is spreading are improving. Vaccines have arrived. People are doing their part,” she said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference alongside Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “But we all have a personal responsibly to continue fighting this virus. Let’s get through the holiday season without seeing a deadly sure in cases. Let’s wear our mask and not gather indoors until everyone can get access to vaccines and we can fight this pandemic back.”
Whitmer credited a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ epidemic order that closed restaurant dining rooms, movie theaters and bowling alleys and moved high schools and colleges online for contributing to the decline in cases.
“We are making progress,” she said. “It is working.”
The order currently runs through Dec. 20, though state officials have indicated at least portions of it are going to continue past that date.
“It’s all very tenuous and that’s why we’ve got to keep taking this seriously,” Whitmer said. “But what we are doing is working.”
She again called on the Michigan Legislature to approve COVID-19 economic relief, citing Congress’ inability to pass a plan, and also to extend unemployment benefits.
“We cannot afford to wait any longer. Yesterday I sent another letter to the Legislature urging them to work with me on priorities like $100 million in COVID relief,” she said.
“This is a really crucial time that people need some help,” she added. “I stand ready to sign a bill that gives them that help. But I can’t send it to myself. It’s on the Legislature to get it done and it is my fervent hope that they do that before they take a break (for the holidays).”
NUMBERS STILL HIGH, BUT ENCOURAGING METRICS
Michigan on Tuesday announced 4,730 more cases of coronavirus had been confirmed and 183 more related deaths recorded. Of the 183 deaths, 71 were discovered during a review of death certificates to find any that had not already been reported to the state.
In all, Michigan has now seen 442,715 infections since the virus was first detected in the state in March and 10,935 deaths have been linked to it.
On Monday, labs in Michigan tested 46,045 samples for the virus and 4,822 were positive, a rate of 10.47%.
Kent County recorded 13 more deaths, bringing its total to 450. It confirmed 232 more cases for a total of 37,801 since March.
Several other West Michigan counties recorded additional deaths:
- Allegan County: One more death for 37 total; 4,683 total confirmed cases since the outbreak began in March.
- Barry County: One more death for 23 total; 2,524 total cases.
- Berrien County: Four more deaths for 143 total; 7,945 total cases.
- Calhoun County: Five more deaths for 150 total; 6,349 total cases.
- Cass County: Three more deaths for 39 total; 2,596 total.
- Ionia County: Two more deaths for 37 total; 2,969 total cases.
- Kalamazoo County: Four more deaths for 193 total; 9,758 total cases.
- Mecosta County: One more death for 12 total; 1,469 total cases.
- Montcalm County: Five more deaths for 49 total; 2,508 total cases.
- Muskegon County: Two more deaths for 222 total; 8,547 total cases.
- Oceana County: One more death for 33 total; 1,446 total cases.
- Ottawa County: Two more deaths for 197 total; 15,942 total cases.
- Van Buren County: Three more deaths for 64 total; 3,489 total cases.
Wayne County, home to Detroit and hit hardest by the virus, recorded 23 more deaths for a total of 3,266 since the start of the outbreak. It also confirmed 918 more cases for a total of 72,847 since the start of the outbreak. Neighboring Oakland County has had 49,453 cases (632 more than the previous day) and 1,428 deaths (12 more). Macomb County has had 43,918 cases (571 more) and 1,386 deaths (20 more).
The virus appears to be spreading more slowly in Michigan now than in recent weeks and months. While the average rate of cases per million people per day is still “alarmingly high,” Khaldun said it has been declining for 22 days. The rate of positive tests each day has been trending down for a week but the seven-day average remains just shy of 12%, about four times higher than the 3% threshold that public health officials say shows community spread is controlled.
As of Tuesday, Michigan hospitals were treating 3,648 adult inpatients suspected or confirmed to have the virus. In all, about 18.5% of all hospitals beds in the state are occupied with COVID-19 patients. Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health said it had 258 COVID-19 inpatients across its hospital system. Figures have been declining both statewide and within Spectrum for about two weeks.
The number of deaths each day is still high, routinely above 100. That is a lagging metric that improves after case counts and hospitalizations.
Spectrum Health said it vaccinated the first health care worker in the state plus four more on Monday and about 150 workers Tuesday.
Both Metro Health – University of Michigan and Holland Hospital say they will get their first shipments of 975 doses each this week and start vaccinating workers Friday.
“This vaccine will provide much-needed protection for our employees who serve on behalf of our community on the front lines of the pandemic,” Metro Health President and CEO Dr. Peter Hahn said in a Tuesday statement. “This is a breakthrough moment. This is how we start to turn the tide in our long battle with COVID-19.”
The state expected to get 84,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, which is being manufactured in Portage, this week. The first shots will go to health care workers and those in nursing homes.
“This generation’s greatest minds have been working tirelessly on vaccines from almost the moment the pandemic began,” Hahn’s statement continued. “Soon we will have to do our part, by being vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available to each of us.”
Khaldun said the vaccine is safe, explaining it was developed under careful methods. She also explained that the vaccine doesn’t give you the virus; rather, it shows your body what the virus looks like so your immune system is ready to fight back. She also said you may have mild side effects like a sore arm, low-grade fever or fatigue and that these show your immune system is responding in the expected way.
She and Whitmer urged people to start thinking about how they’ll get the vaccine shots, though they noted it won’t be available to most people for some time — probably not until late spring. Right now, as only some groups have access to vaccine, employers will make their workers aware when they can get immunized. Eventually, the general public should be able to go to a pharmacy like Walgreens or CVS to get the shots, just as you would for a flu vaccine. In all, nearly 300 places statewide will have vaccines to give out and you won’t have any out-of-pocket costs.
Khaldun also reminded people to keep wearing their mask after getting the vaccine, as research still needs to be done on whether people who have been vaccinated can spread the virus. MDHHS is launching a new “Mask Up, Mask Right” education campaign to remind people to wear their masks and to wear them correctly covering both their mouth and nose.
A group of West Michigan health departments, hospitals, health care providers, universities and other groups launched VaccinateWestMI.com where residents can find the latest information about the vaccine. It will include information about the distribution plan and availability.
The MDHHS Aging and Adult Services Agency this week rolled out a new online tool meant to help people, specifically those older than 60, understand their risks for contracting COVID-19 and limit those risks.
CV19 CheckUP asks people about how they live and interact with others and uses that information to work out how likely they are to get the virus or spread it to someone else, as well as their risk level for developing a severe case of COVID-19. It also directs them to resources they may need.
Aging and Adult Services said the program is also gathering data for government and health organizations so they know more about what people think about the pandemic, whether they are following mitigation protocols and what services people need, among other things.
The state previously released the MI COVID Alert app, which lets people know if they may have been exposed to the virus.
Both tools are anonymous and free.