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Lansing — Michigan's two largest counties ranked among the top counties nationally for COVID-19 deaths as the statewide death toll climbed Wednesday to 337.

It was the third straight day Michigan has reported 24-hour highs for both new cases and new deaths.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state moved up by 1,719 on Wednesday to an overall total of 9,334 while the number of deaths increased by 78 to 337, according to new data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Wayne County, the state's largest county, ranked third in COVID-19 deaths among all counties nationally and Oakland County ranked fifth, according to tracking by the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. However, 565 deaths in New York hadn't been assigned to a specific county as of Wednesday evening.

Wayne County has experienced 146 deaths, and Oakland County has experienced 99 deaths. Wayne County was behind New York City, which had 1,139 deaths, and King County, Washington, which had 150 deaths.

As a state, Michigan ranked fourth in the U.S. for most COVID-19 cases behind only New York,  New Jersey and California, according to the Johns Hopkins tracking.

But John Ioannidis, professor of medicine and of epidemiology and population health at Stanford University, said the number of infected people in Michigan may be 50 times higher than those who have tested positive here.

It's difficult to conclude as much without blood serum testing confirming individuals have developed the antibodies to prove they’ve been infected, Ioannidis said.

“Right now, shelter in place is the best thing we can do and think positive. Don’t panic,” he said. “It will pass. We just need to wait it out.”

As of Wednesday, Wayne County had 48% of the state's total COVID-19 cases. The county has only about 17% of the state's population. National health officials have previously voiced concerns about virus's spread in Detroit.

Stephen Hawes, professor and chairman at the University of Washington's Department of Epidemiology, said with the virus, older individuals, individuals with underlying health issues or who are immuno-compromised and smokers are groups that are at greatest risk of becoming infected if exposed.

"To generalize populations at risk, it makes sense that urban areas with large proportions of individuals with underlying health conditions would have the highest potential for transmission/outbreaks," Hawes added Wednesday.

On Monday, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan's chief medical executive, said it would be "several weeks" until the number of COVID-19 cases in the state peaks.

As of Wednesday, Michigan had reported 29,324 specimen being tested with 7,158 being positive for COVID-19.

cmauger@detroitnews.com

Staff Writer Christine MacDonald contributed.

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