LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — A fourth person in Michigan has died after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
The patient was a 50-year-old Oakland County man, who died on Friday. The man had underlying health conditions, according to the Oakland County Health Division.
The three other COVID-19 patients in the state who have died were also all in metro Detroit. Two had underlying health conditions and one was over the age of 80.
As Michigan’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 549, the state’s chief medical executive said Friday that not enough testing has been done to provide an accurate understanding of how widespread it is.
The daily sum from Thursday, released Friday afternoon, showed that the highest number of cases continues to be in southeast Michigan. Wayne County (including the city of Detroit), has counted 216 of the cases, Oakland County has 184 and Macomb County 86.
Five of the new cases were in Kent County, making the total number 12. Smaller numbers were recorded in mid-Michigan and the Upper Peninsula still has no confirmed cases.
Across the state, 2,449 tests have been run: 1,557 at the state health department’s lab, 774 at hospitals and 148 at commercial labs.
>>Online: Case breakdown from state
DOCTOR: NOT ENOUGH TESTING
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, made it clear at a Friday afternoon press briefing that Michigan simply does not have enough access to test kits and cannot run them fast enough to get a clear understanding of the scope of the problem statewide. Kent County health officials also made that point Friday.
“Our state lab has tripled its ability in the last week to test and we can now do up to 320 samples in one day,” Khaldun said. “Several hospitals labs are now able to test: Henry Ford, Michigan Medicine, Beaumont Health System and Sparrow Hospital. We also know that there are several private entities such as LabCorp and Quest that are doing these lab tests.”
All together, she said, they’re moving about 1,000 tests daily.
“There’s no doubt that as a country, we started late when it comes to testing,” Khaldun said. “An even though we’re able to test now, there’s no question that there are challenges with people being able to find a medical provider to actually perform the sample and there’s a limited number of labs who are able to run those samples.”
She said the state was working to get more labs running and allow quicker turnaround on tests.
“At this point, however, our testing data will not be able to give us the full picture of the spread of COVID-19 here in Michigan,” Khaldun said.
She said testing has been so limited that the numbers are too small to create a clear model projecting the complete number of cases.
CASES NOT YET IN STATE COUNT
Ottawa County noted Friday afternoon that it had been notified of its second confirmed case of coronavirus. It said the patient was an woman but released no further details. The first case was also a woman and she has been released from the hospital.
Barry County was also informed of its first positive test, involving a 45-year-old man with no travel history. The Barry-Eaton District Health Department said it would be in touch with anyone the man had been in contact with and urged anyone with symptoms to self-quarantine for two weeks.
The Barry and Ottawa county cases are not yet included in the state’s official numbers; they will be added in with Friday’s numbers.
HOW MICHIGAN IS RESPONDING
Whitmer told a radio station Friday morning that a statewide shelter-in-place order, like the ones in effect in California, Illinois and New York, was not imminent here. At the afternoon briefing, she noted that could change based on new circumstances.
“We are constantly monitoring because the information’s changing so rapidly,” Whitmer said. “If and when we are in a position where we think that it’s an important next move, I will absolutely communicate that personally to the public. We are not there.”
Also Friday, she signed an executive order putting restrictions on nonessential medical and dental procedures effective 5 p.m. Saturday. Under the order, hospitals, free-standing surgical outpatient facilities and dental offices must postpone those nonessential procedures until the statewide state of emergency for coronavirus is lifted.
“My number one priority remains to flatten the curve and protect the most people we can from the spread of coronavirus,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Our health care workers are on the front lines every day protecting Michiganders during these extraordinary and difficult times. By postponing all non-essential medical and dental procedures, we expect to reduce the strain on the health care system and protect people.”
Khaldun said the move would limit exposure and help preserve medical supplies.
It was the latest in a series of wide-ranging social distancing initiatives Whitmer has mandated, including a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people and the closure of bars, restaurant dining rooms and gyms. Health officials say you shouldn’t shake hands or stand too close to others in public. The goal is to keep the number of severe cases small enough that hospitals can handle them.
“If we do these things now and take this seriously, we will prevent unnecessary illness, deaths and make sure our hospitals and health care workforce are able to take care of people when we need them,” Khaldun said.
Another new executive order temporarily suspends rental evictions through April 17.
Whitmer has also asked the federal government for cash to utilize the National Guard to help distribute food and supplies amid the crisis. She stressed she would not be implementing “martial law.”
“That is a rumor and that is false,” she said. “It is dangerous for people to foment fear.”
COVID-19 presents with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. For most who contract it, symptoms are mild. The people most at risk to develop severe complications are the elderly and those with preexisting health problems. Those people are asked to stay at home unless they must leave.
If you think you have coronavirus, call your health care provider. Unless you are in need of emergency help, do not go to the emergency room. Get advice from a doctor over the phone or a televisit and they will direct you on how to get tested.
Everyone should also follow common-sense health practices, primarily washing your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and warm water, coughing into your arm or a tissue rather than your hands and avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands. And, of course, you should stay home when you’re sick.
“I hope that you do your part, I ask that you do your part,” the governor implored citizens. “This is a serious time and it’s a tough time. But the tough times don’t last. Tough people do, though.”