State opens up vaccinations to more as MDHHS expects ‘rebound’ in COVID-19 cases

Coronavirus

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan will open up COVID-19 vaccinations to more people starting Monday.

The state announced Wednesday it will move to Phase 1B of the rollout, which includes front-line essential workers like police officers, first responders, state and federal employees, jail and prison staff, and teachers and child care providers.

The state is also opening vaccinations to Group A of Phase 1C, which includes people older than 65. According to a 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimate, that’s about 1.77 million people.

“Every shot in the arm is a step closer to ending this pandemic,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said at an afternoon briefing in Lansing.

Workers will be notified by their workers about how to get their shots. People 65 and older are advised to go to Michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine to find local health departments and clinics where they can get vaccinated. Officials stressed you should not simply show up somewhere to get vaccinated. You must make an appointment. Shots should be free at the clinic, though your insurance may be billed for administrative costs.

Whitmer said the state hopes to administer 90% of received vaccines within a week of getting them. She said if the state starts meeting that goal, it will start running out based on the number of doses it is getting in. She called on the federal government to speed up the flow of vaccines.

“Vaccines are the way that we are going to end this pandemic,” Michigan’s chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said at the governor’s press conference. “There is more urgency than ever to vaccinate as many as people as possible and as quickly as possible.”

Up to this point, only health care workers and nursing home residents had been getting vaccinated. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday morning that of 520,150 COVID-19 doses in the state, 152,511 had been administered. Of those doses, 8,000 went to people in long-term care facilities through a federal program.

Khaldun said more than three times as many doses were administered last week as in the first week of vaccinations. She said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials told her in a Wednesday call that Michigan now ranks among the top five states in terms of percent of residents vaccinated. She expected the CDC’s vaccine tracker to soon be updated to reflect that.

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but make no mistake, we are still in the tunnel,” Whitmer cautioned, urging people to continue to follow coronavirus spread mitigation practices and calling on federal authorities to set aside partisanship to combat the pandemic.

MICHIGAN CASE DECLINE SLOWS

The state on Wednesday announced 4,326 more cases of the virus had been confirmed and 51 more related deaths recorded. That brought the total number of confirmed cases in Michigan to 508,736 since the virus was first detected in the sate 10 months ago and the total number of associated deaths to 12,918.

Earlier, Michigan’s top epidemiologist says the state’s decline in coronavirus cases has plateaued and that health officials are “expecting a rebound.”

Dr. Sarah Lyon-Callo, the director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said during a virtual press conference that considering the data she’s seeing, “we’re not going to see this continued decline” in cases.

That being said, Michigan has recently been seeing better figures than in November and early December. Michigan reported the 20th highest number of new coronavirus cases of any state last week and the eighth highest number of deaths. The state dropped one ranking in both of those metrics. The case rate dropped for the sixth week in a row last week, but Lyon-Callo noted it is still twice as high as in early October.

Hospitalizations have declined 40% since Dec. 1, but Lyon-Callo said the rate of decline has slowed. She said about 13% off all hospital beds in the state now have COVID-19 patients in them. Thirty percent of all intensive care beds are treating COVID-19 patients, a decline of 17% over the previous week.

The rate of deaths is also improving. In the week of Dec. 20 to Dec. 26, there were 572 COVID-19 related deaths, 181 fewer than the week prior.

Lyon-Callo noted the state has seen a drop in the number of people getting tested, now at an average of about 33,400 daily. There was a decline over the holidays and then a slight resurgence afterward.

“We need to get those numbers up so we can understand what is happening with the spread of the epidemic in the state,” she said.

You can find a testing site near you at Michigan.gov/coronavirustest.

The rate of daily positive tests dipped to nearly 8% the week of Christmas, but has since increased to a seven-day average of 9.6%. That’s more than three times higher than the 3% threshold public health officials look for to demonstrate community spread is controlled.

On Tuesday, labs in Michigan tested 44,089 samples for the virus and 4,594 were positive, a rate of 10.42%.

While a new, more transmissible variant of the virus that was first detected in the United Kingdom has not yet been detected in Michigan, Lyon-Callo said it “could have significant impacts on the spread of the disease in the state.” She said if the variant shows up here, it may warrant more strict mitigation measures.

She said the virus has “stepped up its game,” so people must too, being diligent about washing hands, social distancing and wearing masks.

At her press conference in the afternoon, Whitmer said she was waiting on more data to determine what actions the state will take moving forward, including whether more restrictions may be put in place or lifted.

COUNTY-BY-COUNTY DATA

Kent County on Wednesday recorded one more death for a total of 532 and X more cases for a total of 42,618 in the last 10 months.

Several other West Michigan counties also saw additional deaths:

  • Allegan County: One more death for 61 total; 5,493 total confirmed cases in the last 10 months.
  • Berrien County: One more death for 189 total; 8,976 total cases.
  • Branch County: One more death for 68 total; 2,937 total cases.
  • Calhoun County: One more death for 185 total; 7,050 total cases.
  • Kalamazoo County: Three more deaths for a total of 235; 11,296 total cases.
  • Newaygo County: One more death for 34 total; 2,263 total cases.
  • Ottawa County: Two more deaths for 26 total; 18,118 total cases.

The number of deaths in Oceana County was revised down by one to 42. This has not been unusual as cases are double-checked and sometimes moved between jurisdictions.

Wayne County, home to Detroit, recorded six more deaths for a total of 3,513 and confirmed 735 more cases for a total of 83,710. Oakland County has had 56,150 confirmed cases (649 more than the previous day) and 1,599 deaths (no change). Macomb County has had 48,923 cases (405 more) and 1,577 deaths (two more).


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