Lt. gov. touts masks as ‘simple’ way to fight virus as positive rate above 4%

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan has recorded nine more deaths linked to coronavirus and on Monday confirmed 573 new cases of the virus, the latest state data shows.

Four of the deaths were discovered in a routine check of death certificates to find any that weren’t reported to the state right away. These checks have been happening several times per week for months.

The updated figures released Tuesday afternoon bring the total number of deaths to 6,135 and the total number of cases to 74,725 cases since the virus was first detected in Michigan in March.

Labs in Michigan on Monday tested 22,886 samples for coronavirus and 971 of them came back positive. The number of positive tests is not the same as the number of new cases because people may be tested more than once for confirmation purposes.

The percentage of positive tests was 4.24%. It was the third time in 10 days that the rate has surpassed 4%. In the previous 14 days, the rate has been above 3% every day but two.

LT. GOV.: MICHIGAN STILL IN ‘CONCERNING’ ZONE

State health officials say they want to see the positive test percentage drop to consistently below 3%, where it was for much of June. Since July 6, it has been mostly between 3% and 4%. At the peak of Michigan’s outbreak in April, it was around 40%.

“We’re still in a zone that is concerning to us,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist told News 8 in a video call Tuesday. “When we’re looking at the modeling in terms of how the case counts are changing and how the hospitalizations and things are going in the state of Michigan, we are concerned. So we’re at a heightened level of awareness and observation right now. I think it’s still up in the air as to whether or not we need to take a step back into a different phase. The Grand Rapids area in particular has been an area where we’re seeing community spread at a pretty high level.”

The Grand Rapids region is seeing the highest rate of new cases per million people in Michigan, state data shows. Kent County on Monday confirmed 57 more cases of the virus over the previous day, bringing the total to 5,872 since the start of the outbreak. There was one more death for a total of 146.

Cass County also saw a death, bringing its total to eight. It has had 211 cases.

There were 124 new cases in Wayne County, which has been hit hardest by the virus. It has now dealt with 24,033 cases since the start of the outbreak. It also had one more death for a total of 2,660. Oakland County has had 10,313 cases (121 more than the day prior) and 1,078 deaths (two more). Macomb County has had 8,183 cases (76 more) and 899 deaths (two more).

Saying it was the “simplest way to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Gilchrist again urged people to wear a mask whenever they are in public.

“And if everybody masks up, there are a lot more activities that can be available to us in the safest way possible,” he said.

The state is getting closer to its goal of routinely running more than 30,000 samples daily. Just about anyone who wants a coronavirus test can now get one. You can go to the state’s website to find a site near you, including options to find only free sites or those that don’t require a doctor’s order.

HOSPITALIZATIONS

While the state’s online hospitalization data was not updated by 3 p.m. Tuesday, the number of coronavirus inpatients has been rising steadily, if slowly, for more than a week. The majority of patients remain in the Detroit area. Hospitals still have plenty of intensive care beds and ventilators to go around.

“Slowing the transmission … helps make sure that we don’t overwhelm our health care system,” Gilchrist said. “I saw a headline out of Florida today, for example, that talked about how their hospitals are almost at capacity due to the exploding number of COVID-19 cases.

“I also want to recognize something that I think is getting a little bit misinterpreted,” he continued. “Hospitalizations are super, super important and super, super critical to understanding, but I don’t want people to get sick in the first place. I don’t want you to get sick and even have to be at home because you’re sick. I want people to be prevented from ever getting COVID-19 in the first place. And that is why masking up is so important. If we do that, we significantly slow the spread, which will mean less people getting infected, which will mean less people getting hospitalized and less people losing their life.”

As for returning to school for in-person learning, Gilchrist he is concerned about it as a parent. He said that what back-to-school will look like is still an open question.

—News 8 political reporter Rick Albin contributed to this report.

  

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