Michigan's COVID-19 cases rise over 2,800, deaths grow to 60

Craig Mauger Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan has confirmed 564 new COVID-19 cases and 17 more deaths, according to state Department of Health and Human Services data unveiled at 2 p.m. Thursday.

The state has now seen 2,856 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 60 deaths in the 16 days since its first case was confirmed on March 10. On Wednesday, Michigan had nearly 2,300 confirmed cases and 43 deaths.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive, have cautioned in recent days that the number of confirmed cases will continue to climb here.

"Right now, we're probably a few weeks out from meeting that apex," Khaldun told reporters Thursday.  "But again, it all depends on what everyone does. If we do appropriate social distancing and people listen to the governor's executive orders, we'll be able to flatten that curve."

The new numbers on Thursday came a few hours after Whitmer sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting a major disaster declaration be issued for Michigan amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The declaration would allow the state to offer additional assistance programs, including providing meals to families in need and rental assistance, according to the governor's office.

Earlier Thursday, Khaldun said Michigan has begun to shift COVID-19 patients among hospitals to ensure that facilities at capacity can transfer patients to locations with empty beds.

The state also is exploring locations for "alternative sites" that could host overflow from area hospitals at capacity, Khaldun said, adding that many hospitals in southeast Michigan "are at or near capacity."

Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties have seen the great majority of Michigan COVID-19 cases so far. According to the latest data, 84% of the state's cases and 86% of the state's deaths have been in Michigan's three largest counties by population.

Wayne County, which has about 17% of the state's population, has had 48% of the state's confirmed cases and 43% of the deaths.

The county continues to rank seventh among all U.S. counties for the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.

But cases are steadily spreading into other areas of Michigan.

Genesee County, which is home to Flint, added 17 new cases Thursday, pushing its cumulative total to 63. The Genesee County Health Department reported Thursday two deaths tied to COVID-19 — the county only had one in the state's data, which sometimes lags the local reporting.

Both individuals were elderly males who were hospitalized with underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk, according to the county health department.

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families who have lost their loved ones," said John McKellar, Genesee County health officer. "These tragic deaths are an urgent reminder to all of us that we must act now and act together to protect everyone’s health during this time of national crisis."

Over 60% or 52 of the state's 83 counties have at least one confirmed case, according to Thursday's data, up from about 57% or 47 counties on Wednesday. However, two counties where the state reported cases Wednesday dropped off the new list as the state continues to adjust data.

The new counties with cases are Cass, Ionia, Mecosta, Missaukee, Oceana, Ogemaw and Shiawassee.

The two counties that dropped off the list were Chippewa and Luce in the Upper Peninsula.

The Department of Health and Human Services listed 13 cases as being within the Michigan Department of Corrections.