With case rate improving, could Michigan loosen more restrictions?

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As the nation continues to see declining coronavirus numbers and after last week’s announcement that vaccinated people could do away with masks in most circumstances, there has been a move by many states to more fully open up their economies and try to get back to something closer to normal.

It looks like Michigan is eyeing further loosening of its restrictions, too:

“With the CDC recommending that fully vaccinated people can safely return to normal life, we feel confident that our state can begin taking even greater steps to get back to normal now that a majority of Michiganders have received their vaccine,” a spokesperson for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office told News 8 political reporter Rick Albin Wednesday. “I would expect an announcement in the coming days or week.”

The governor’s spokesperson did not say what those steps will be, but capacity at restaurants and sports venues could be impacted. Still, there is no clear indication what the next phases may look like.

Michigan is seeing its virus metrics trending in the right direction. On Wednesday, it reported 1,560 newly confirmed cases of the virus and 31 related deaths. In all, the state has had 879,685 total confirmed cases since the virus was first detected here in March 2020 and the total number of associated deaths to 18,741.

More than 7.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Michigan and the percentage of residents 16 and up with at least one dose is 56.8%, up three tenths of a percent from the previous day.

On Tuesday, labs tested 27,487 samples for the virus and 1,695 were positive, which works out to 6.17%. 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 recorded two more deaths, bringing its pandemic total to 759. It also counted 126 more cases for a total of 67,213.

Several other West Michigan counties also reported additional deaths:

  • Allegan County: One more death for 118 total; 9,802 total confirmed cases since March 2020.
  • Calhoun County: One more death for 273 total; 12,126 total cases.
  • Kalamazoo County: One more death for 350 total; 19,903 total cases.
  • Muskegon County: One more death for 340 total; 15,245 total cases.
  • Ottawa County: One more death for 367 total; 29,947 total cases.
  • St. Joseph County: One more death for 91 total; 5,388 total cases.
  • Van Buren County: One more death for 111 total; 6,539 total cases.

Wayne County, hit hardest by the virus, recorded three more related deaths for a total of 4,613 and confirmed 242 more cases for a total of 150,325. Neighboring Oakland County has had 100,667 confirmed cases (212 more than the previous day) and 2,186 deaths (four more). Macomb County has had 90,721 cases (131 more) and 2,253 deaths (no change).

Michigan’s key virus metrics keep getting better. The seven-day average of the positive test rate has dipped below 8% for the first time since mid-March; it peaked above 18%. The case rate has been on the decline for six weeks; it dropped 35% last week, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Outbreaks are also on the decline: there were 5% fewer last week than the week before. High schools are still seeing the most outbreaks, with 118 on record.

The number of adults in the hospital with COVID-19 has been on the decline for a month, dropping more than 20% in the last week.

However, Michigan still has the highest case rate in the nation and the second highest number of new cases, as well as the highest inpatient and ICU bed utilization.

We have the third highest number of deaths and, despite week-over-week improvements, the highest death rate of any state. At the same time, more of the dead were under the age of 60.

The state has recorded 5,555 “breakthrough” cases of the virus — that is, positive tests among people who are 14 days out from their final dose. That’s less than 1% of the more than 3.7 million Michigan residents considered fully vaccinated. Among the breakthrough cases, 232 people were hospitalized. Seventy-two died, and 67 of them were older than 65.

MDHHS reminds residents that the vaccines are not 100% effective, so there were always going to be some breakthrough cases. The number we’re seeing is not unexpected. And, health officials add, those who are vaccinated seem to get less sick than those who are not vaccinated.

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

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