Michigan's COVID-19 deaths rise to 24, positive cases jump to nearly 1,800

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan now has 1,791 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 24 deaths tied to the coronavirus, which appears to have rapidly spread in the state's most populated county.

The new numbers posted at 3 p.m. Tuesday represented sharp increases — including  nine deaths throughout the state — with 85% of the overall cases still occurring in Metro Detroit, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The day before, the state had 1,328 confirmed cases across 36 counties and 15 deaths as of the data released on Monday.

Over the previous four days, Michigan had added about 251 new confirmed cases each day on average. On Tuesday, however, the state confirmed 463 new cases, the largest single-day increase since the first case in Michigan was confirmed on March 10.

It's unclear whether Michigan has significantly increased its testing capabilities, which could contribute to an uptick in case confirmations. On Monday, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive, said Michigan was testing more than 1,000 people a day.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer predicted Monday that the number of confirmed cases in Michigan would increase in the coming days.

"It will take some time for us to impact this," Whitmer said.

The fallout from the virus will likely get much worse in Michigan before it gets better, said Dr. Teena Chopra, an infectious disease specialist in Detroit who teaches at Wayne State University.

"We are seeing surges," Chopra said. "But we have just started in that phase. This is just the start."

Beaumont Health said late Tuesday afternoon its eight hospitals are now caring for nearly 450 confirmed COVID-19 patients, while another 185 patients admitted to its hospitals have COVID-19 test results pending as of 4:30 p.m.

As of Tuesday morning, Michigan ranked eighth in the world for provinces or states with confirmed cases, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University and Medicine's Coronavirus Resource Center. At that point, Michigan was behind five U.S. states: New York, New Jersey, California, Washington and Florida.

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.

Wayne County had the seventh most cases among counties in the United States as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Johns Hopkins tracking numbers. Wayne County was behind four counties in New York, King County in Washington state — its county seat is Seattle — and Cook County in Illinois — its county seat is Chicago.

Detroit had 563 cases, according to the state's Tuesday data, while Wayne County as a whole had 873 cases. Of the state's 24 deaths, 13 were in Wayne County.

The spread of the virus in Detroit could outpace the hardest hit cities in America, Chopra said Tuesday. Detroit has a large homeless population and many older residents with limited resources, she said.

"Probably, they are getting very sick before they’re coming to us," Chopra added.

But the virus is spreading outside of southeast Michigan as well. As of Tuesday's data, almost half or 41 of Michigan's 83 counties now have confirmed cases, which is up from 36 counties on Monday. The new counties with confirmed cases are Hillsdale, Isabella, Kalkaska, Lapeer and Manistee.

Three positive cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among patients at two of the state's psychiatric hospitals, the Michigan Department of Health and Humans Services said Tuesday.

Two patients and three staff members at Walter Reuther Psychiatric Hospital in Westland tested positive, while one patient at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Saline was confirmed positive, according to the state.

Staff and patients have been monitored for COVID-19 symptoms for the last two weeks at the facilities as additional cleaning measures were taken, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The state also stopped allowing visitors at the hospitals two weeks ago.

“Our primary focus is the health and safety of our staff and the patients at our state hospitals,” said Michigan Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon said in a statement. “We treat the spread of COVID-19 with the greatest seriousness and are taking many steps to address it.”

The new statewide COVID-19 case numbers came a day after Whitmer issued a wide-ranging order that requires most businesses in the state to limit their operations and most people to primarily stay inside their homes.

Whitmer previously shuttered schools, banned large public gatherings and closed bars, movie theaters and dine-in service at restaurants.

During a press conference on Monday, she cited modeling that suggested 70% of the state's 10 million residents could get infected with COVID-19. About 1 million people would need to be hospitalized under that scenario, Whitmer said.

"We have about 25,000 acute care beds in Michigan. Think about that," she continued. "That is where we are headed currently. So stopping the spread of this virus is really the most important tool we have right now to keep our communities safe."

The goal of the restrictions is to stem the spread of COVID-19, a virus that causes respiratory illness and health officials believe could send more patients to hospitals than they can handle.

Nationally, there were 44,183 confirmed cases as of noon Tuesday, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There had been 544 deaths.