GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With 5,710 confirmed cases announced Thursday, Michigan has again set a new record for new cases added to the state tally in a single day.
The state also recorded 51 COVID-19-related deaths in its update, 26 of which were discovered as public health officials reviewed death certificates to find any that had not previously been reported.
Coronavirus has now infected 197,806 people since it was first detected in Michigan early eight months ago and been linked to 7,470 deaths.
Wednesday testing data was not released Thursday as usual, with a state spokesperson telling News 8 that the online dashboard had not updated properly. The data was available Friday morning: On Wednesday, labs in Michigan tested 61,328 total samples for the virus and 6,300 came back positive, a rate of 10.27% — above 10% for the third consecutive day.
Kent County alone confirmed 614 additional cases for a total of 17,149 since March. It also added five deaths, bringing its total to 196.
“I think over the past week, we’ve seen 2,800 cases reported to the Kent County Health Department,” Brian Hartl with KCHD said. “Averaging about 400 cases per day, and that’s something we’ve not seen before.”
Hartl said these latest numbers are part of an upward trend of COVID-19 cases reported in the county.
“Each week, it seems to be our average is going up on a daily basis,” Hartl said. “Last week at this time, it was below 300 and now its above 400 cases a day.”
Health officials are urging the community to see this as a wake-up call, saying now is the time to take the virus more seriously than ever.
“Now more than ever, it’s critically important to wear masks because we know it can protect yourself and others,” Hartl said.
Several other West Michigan counties also saw more deaths:
- Barry County: One more death for a total of seven; 878 total confirmed cases since the start of the outbreak.
- Berrien County: One more death for a total of 87; 310 total cases.
- Calhoun County: Two more deaths for a total of 73; 3,291 total cases.
- Kalamazoo County: Three more deaths for a total of 117; 4,833 total cases.
- Newaygo County: One more death for a total of four; 804 total cases.
- Ottawa County: One more death for a total of 78; 6,477 total cases.
There were 506 more cases confirmed in Wayne County, the state’s largest county, for a total of 40,619 since the start of the outbreak. That county also confirmed five more deaths for a total of 2,904. Oakland County has had 23,893 cases (538 more than the previous day) and 1,195 deaths (three more). Macomb County has had 20,548 cases (620) and 1,059 deaths (six more).
COVID-19 METRICS ‘RISING EXPONENTIALLY’
At a Thursday afternoon briefing alongside the governor, Michigan’s chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said she was “very concerned” about the state of the outbreak.
“We are really at a tipping point right now when it comes to COVID-19 in the state,” she said. “Our rates are rising exponentially and we have general community spread.”
She said the state’s numbers of new cases daily are now five times higher than in early September. While every region of the state is seeing more cases, the worst figures are in Southwest Michigan, West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.
The percentage of positive tests each day has been rising for five weeks, with the seven-day average now above 8%. Public health officials say a rate below 3% shows community spread is controlled. Khaldun said in about half the cases investigated, the patients have no idea where they picked up the virus.
The number of people being hospitalized is “rapidly rising,” Khaldun said, with more than 2,260 adult inpatients suspected or confirmed to have the virus as of Thursday. Khaldun said that’s nearly four times more than the end of August — though it’s still below spring figures.
She said about 60% of hospitalizations are outside southeast Michigan. With 217 inpatients across its hospitals, Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health says it is nearing capacity — though it said it has a plan to respond if numbers continue to grow.
The seven-day average of daily COVID-19-related deaths each day has also been up in the last two months. and Khaldun said she expects the figures to rise behind hospitalizations.
“We have models that estimate that at the rate we are going, if we don’t do anything else, if we don’t change our behaviors, we could be seeing up to 100 deaths a day by the end of December,” she said.
She said that this year, it would be wise to avoid large family gatherings at the holidays. She also reminded people to wear masks, maintain 6-foot social distance and wash their hands frequently.
“Things are concerning, but we are not helpless,” she added. “If we use the public health tools that we have, we can get through this.”
COVID-19 IN SCHOOLS
As of Monday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is tracking 46 new or ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 at schools in West Michigan.
In Kent County, there were four student cases at East Grand Rapids High School, six at Lowell High School, and seven in both students and staff at East Kentwood High School.
In Kalamazoo County, Comstock Elementary had two staff members test positive. Heritage Christian Academy had six cases in both students and staff.
Forest Hills Middle and High Schools will also go back to a hybrid learning model starting Monday through Thanksgiving. This means students would alternate between learning in-person and learning virtually.
The district worked with the Kent County Health Department and decided lowering the amount of students in those buildings was the best idea.
District officials say while data shows the risk of COVID-19 transmission is low in the district, they’re making this move because that could change.
WHITMER ASKS LEGISLATURE FOR MASK LAW
Citing Michigan’s “record number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer again called on the Republican-led Legislature to pass a law requiring masks in public.
“At this moment, mask wearing could not be more critical,” the Democratic governor said at a briefing in Lansing, explaining she had sent a letter to leaders in the Legislature asking for the law.
While the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services already has a mask mandate in effect under an epidemic order, Whitmer said support from the Legislature would send a strong message about how vital wearing masks is.
“We’ve got to get the politics out of this simple act of masking up,” Whitmer said. “This remains the best implement we have to keep spread down.”
Whitmer acknowledged people are fatigued, but said we can’t let our guard down and must “reinvigorate” our commitment to mitigation measures.
The state Legislature has taken some action on the virus recently, with Whitmer on Thursday singing some measures into law. One requires MDHHS to publish COVID-19 data online, one allows volunteers to help with COVID-19 testing with guidance, and one allows electronic signatures, witnessing and notarization of certain documents through Dec. 31 to encourage remote commerce. None effect any significant change in how the state has been operating for months.
NEW TESTING CENTER IN GRAND RAPIDS
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has it, health officials want you to get tested. You can find a testing site near you at Michigan.gov/coronavirustest.
The state on Thursday announced a new free community testing site had opened in Grand Rapids. The site at Garfield Park Gym, 2111 Madison Ave. SE, will be open three days a week:
There are 21 such state-organized neighborhood testing sites across Michigan. You can make an appointment at one online or by calling 888.535.6136 and choosing option 1. Walk-ins are allowed, but officials want you to register ahead of time.
— News 8’s Dana Whyte and Jacqueline Francis contributed to this report.