GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan on Tuesday announced 6,473 more cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in the state and 84 more related deaths recorded.
“This is very serious. As scary as the spring was, these numbers are worse than what we were seeing in the spring, and we are seeing our hospitals start to fill up,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said about the surge of cases in Michigan.
The governor listed preliminary numbers at Tuesday press conference about professional licensing options for veterans before the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released its daily data update.
When that data was released around 3 p.m., it indicated 25 of the 84 deaths were discovered during a review of death certificates to find any that had not been reported to MDHHS. Michigan has now seen 7,724 deaths associated with the virus and 223,277 confirmed cases since it was first detected in the state in March.
Whitmer said she was in contact with MDHHS leaders about what actions it can next take through epidemic orders. However, Whitmer did not provide any details about what the next actions may be.
“This is has been a long, tough year for a lot of us, for most of us, probably for every single one of us, and yet we’re not through it yet,” Whitmer said.
She said she was planning another press conference for Thursday to discuss the virus.
Kent County alone confirmed 851 additional cases of the virus, bringing its total to 19,797 in the last eight months. It also recorded eight more COVID-19-associated deaths for a total of 224.
Several other West Michigan counties also recorded additional deaths:
- Berrien County: One more death for 90 total; 3,568 total cases since the start of the outbreak.
- Calhoun County: Four more deaths for 86 total; 3,755 total cases.
- Kalamazoo County: Three more deaths for 129 total: 5,541 total cases.
- Montcalm County: One more death for 16 total; 961 total cases.
- Muskegon County: 10 more deaths for 101 total; 3,820 total cases.
- Ottawa County: Two more deaths for 86 total; 7,697 total cases.
Wayne County, which has been hit hardest by the virus, recorded 12 more deaths for a total of 2,933 total and confirmed 786 more cases for a total of 43,369 since March. Neighboring Oakland County has had 26,535 confirmed cases (689 more than the previous day) and 1,206 deaths (two more). Macomb County has had 23,009 cases (773 more) and 1,081 deaths (nine more).
The state-run Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital says it had 51 patient cases and 61 staff cases in October. So far this month, it has had two patient cases and four staff cases. The last patient to test positive was Nov. 4.
Those numbers compare to a total of 13 patient and 26 staff cases between March and September.
“Staff continue to test positive at a rate expected for Kalamazoo County’s widespread community transmission status,” the hospital added.
The hospital said it recently got a rapid antigen test that it called “a game-changer in getting this outbreak under control,” explaining all staff and patients are now tested daily.
MICHIGAN’S SURGE CONTINUES
On Monday, labs in Michigan tested 43,443 samples for the virus and 6,116 came back positive, a rate of 14.19%.
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.
The seven-day average of the positivity percentage, just one metric that demonstrates the surge, is now above 10%, the worst it has been since early May.
“When we’re under 3%, we feel like we’ve got a good handle on spread and we can keep it controlled. Our health systems not going to get overloaded, the public health system is not overloaded and transmission is at a controlled level,” Ottawa County Department of Public Health Deputy Health Administrator Marcia Mansaray explained to News 8 Monday. “When you get above 10%, that’s really scary.”
If the spread of the virus was slowing, she said, the positivity percentage would drop as the number of tests run increased. That’s the opposite of what’s happening.
In addition, the rate of new cases per million people per day has been increasing since early September. Statewide hospitalization numbers have been climbing since mid-September and as of Tuesday, more than 2,900 inpatients were suspected or confirmed to have the virus.
Public health officials say they expect to see the number of deaths continue to climb more quickly in the coming weeks, as that generally happens after an increase in cases and hospitalizations.
“This is about the last chance we have to really set this curve going into the winter. If we don’t take action right now then we’re in for a very difficult few months coming up,” Kent County Health Department Administrative Health Officer Adam London said Monday. “If we want to see the quality of life that we desire continue, we’ve all, every one of us, have got to do our part right now to rope it back in and get it under control.”
People can help spread the slow of the virus by washing their hands frequently, practicing 6-foot social distancing, avoiding gatherings and wearing a mask. At her press conference, Whitmer also reminded people that a mask mandate is in effect under an MDHHS epidemic order and also said people should avoid large family gatherings at the holidays.
CLOSURES AS CASES RISE
In Kent County, Kelloggsville Public Schools is moving to a virtual format starting Wednesday and continuing through Nov. 30. It said it was making the switch due to the spike in cases around the state and because several students and staff had shown COVID-19-like symptoms.
Grand Haven High School and Lakeshore Middle School are also going virtual starting Friday and continuing through Thanksgiving, with the district superintendent citing a rise in the number of cases at the schools. In-person classes will resume Nov. 30.
Citing the increase in virus cases in Calhoun County, the Battle Creek is closing its city hall and suspending some in-person services for now. Starting Nov. 16, City Hall and the police department will not be open to visitors at least through the end of the month. The city clerk, code compliance and inspections services offices are already closed to the public. While closed in person, all departments will be available via phone or online.
ENCOURAGING VACCINE DATA
Whitmer also praised Pfizer for its steady progress on a COVID-19 vaccine, which it believes to be about 90% effective. However, she said the announcement “does not mean that we can drop our guard now or relax and loosen restrictions.”
“The advent of a vaccine is good news, but we need to keep our rates low to make sure people can benefit from this vaccine when it is available,” Whitmer said.
The Pfizer vaccine is being manufacturing the vaccine doses at its facility in Portage, but it will be some time yet before it is available to the general public. Whitmer said her administration is working on a vaccine distribution plan.
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 this week rolled out a new app to alert you if you could have been exposed.