Michigan reaches almost 960 COVID-19 deaths, over 20,340 cases as pace slows

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing The number of new COVID-19 cases in virus-battered Michigan hit an eight-day low Wednesday as some health and elected officials saw reason for hope but others called for caution.

Michigan now has 20,346 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 959 deaths. However, the state reported 1,376 new daily cases Wednesday, the smallest 24-hour increase since March 31.

"No single day can be considered significant as daily case numbers can be impacted by many external factors," said Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. "It’s consistent trends over time that we look for to determine changes."

Similar to the statewide total, the number of new cases across Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties — the epicenter of the spread of the virus in Michigan — was 1,064 Wednesday, according to the state health department. The total was also an eight-day low.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent global health research center at the University of Washington, is now projecting that Michigan's peak day for the use for hospital resources was Tuesday.

Other models and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have said the peak of the virus in the state won't come until later this month or early May.

One day's numbers aren't enough to confirm whether Michigan is past its peak, said Stephen Hawes, an epidemiology professor at the University of Washington. 

But Hawes said in some states, such as Washington and California, data on new infections and modeling suggest those states are already at or near their peaks.

"Death patterns and curves naturally will follow a bit behind infection patterns," Hawes said. "So this is certainly hopeful.

"That being said, there is also data to suggest that some rural areas are just beginning to experience increases in numbers, so statewide numbers reflect a mix of patterns in different areas." 

Michigan's latestnew numbers come as some government officials have begun voicing some optimism about efforts to combat the virus.

Vice President Mike Pence said during both the Tuesday and Wednesday White House briefings that he found hope in the case numbers in some hot spots. On Tuesday, Pence listed Detroit among the areas across the country where there was evidence of "stabilization" in the spread of the virus.

"We continue to see evidence of stabilization in some of the areas around the country of the most significant outbreak, the New York metro area, including New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut, New Orleans metro area, Detroit, Boston, Chicago and Denver," the vice president said.

A member of the Michigan National Guard assembles walkers at the field hospital for non-critical COVID-19 patients at the TCF Center in Detroit on April 6, 2020.

Metro Detroit is home to 80% of the COVID-19 cases in Michigan, which ranks third for cases and deaths nationally, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.

Under the state's data, Detroit added 348 new cases Wednesday, the smallest single-day increase since March 31. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan told reporters Tuesday that the rate of doubling for COVID-19 deaths in the city was "slowing to every five to six days."

"This is the first glimmer of light," Duggan said, "since this pandemic started."

Oakland County, the county with the second most cases in Michigan, added 90 new cases Wednesday, the smallest increase since March 23, said county spokesman Bill Mullan.

But Mullan said it's not the day-to-day numbers that give the big picture. It's data aggregated over time, he said.

"The bottom line is we are far from being out of the woods," Mullan said Wednesday. "Assume everyone has it and that COVID-19 is in every place in your community. Everyone should shelter at home except for essential reasons."

The state reported 114 new COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, the second highest 24-hour total for deaths yet. The high was Tuesday when 118 new deaths were reported.

Whitmer said Tuesday the state was in an "early up-slope of what is going to hit Michigan incredibly hard."

As of Tuesday, Michigan reported 43,503 COVID-19 tests had occurred in the state with 12,021 being positive. 

Michigan also began posting data Wednesday on the number of recovered coronavirus patients in the state. As of Friday, the state had identified 56 individuals who had laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus and were 30 days out from the onset of illness.


Staff Writer Christine Ferretti contributed.