Michigan coronavirus cases confirmed in Oakland, Wayne counties

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan has its first confirmed cases of the coronavirus with patients identified from Wayne and Oakland counties, state officials announced late Tuesday night. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at the state health department, announced the cases in a late Tuesday night broadcast in which the governor declared a state of emergency. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces the state's first two cases of coronavirus, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at the Michigan State Police headquarters in Windsor Township, Mich.

"It has moved into Michigan," Whitmer said. "...Please make sure your family and friends are taking every preventative measure possible."

Whitmer said her declaration of a state of emergency will activate several state agencies and task forces to collaborate on response, assist local governments and slow the spread of the virus.

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"They’re already meeting to discuss further preventative measures that we can take," Whitmer said. "The coronavirus has the potential to impact our lives in nearly every aspect of our lives.”

The tests confirming the cases involved an Oakland County woman with a recent history of international travel and a Wayne County man with a recent history of domestic travel, Khaldun said. Both middle-aged individuals are hospitalized, she said.

Khaldun said the state learned of the presumed positive results late Tuesday evening, "a couple of hours" before the 10:45 p.m. broadcast. The tests still need to be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

"These are the first known cases of COVID-19 here in the state of Michigan," Khaldun said. "It is very likely that we will see more cases and that there will be community spread.”

The state is expected to announce additional steps to slow the spread of the virus Wednesday afternoon.

Officials in both Wayne and Oakland counties said they were investigating the cases in their respective counties to determine with whom they've come into close contact. 

“We are continuing to collaborate with the state health department and recommend residents continue to practice prevention measures to slow the spread of COVID-19," said Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, noting the individual in Wayne County is in isolation.

An undated electron microscope image shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S.

Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter added: "We must all as individuals and communities continue our prevention and preparedness strategies as we hope for a full recovery for this member of the community."

According to the state, 57 individuals had tested negative for COVID-19 and 18 test results were pending as of Tuesday night.

Michigan public health officials since Jan. 31 have asked a total of 493 people to self-quarantine for 14 days due to travel to areas with a high risk of exposure to the coronavirus, according to the state's data. 

There are 87 people in isolation under active monitoring by county health departments in Michigan. The remainder were released after completing their 14 days of quarantine without showing symptoms.

Among states that have confirmed cases of COVID-19, 29 people have died among more than 800 cases identified, according to the Associated Press. New Jersey reported its first coronavirus death Tuesday. Worldwide, about 118,000 have been infected and over 4,200 have died.

Patients with confirmed infection have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC believes that symptoms might appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, center, announces the state's first two cases of coronavirus, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at the Michigan State Police headquarters in Windsor Township, Mich. At left is Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive, and at right is Capt. Emmitt McGowan, deputy state director of emergency management and homeland security.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services activated the state's Community Health Emergency Coordination Center last month to coordinate with local health departments and medical providers.

Michigan can test for COVID-19 at the state laboratory in Lansing with a turnaround time of four hours per test. The testing that confirmed the cases in Wayne and Oakland counties was performed in the state lab.

The federal Food and Drug Administration issued new guidance Feb. 28 to allow private companies, hospitals and universities to develop and process COVID-19 tests. 

Staff Writer Karen Bouffard contributed.