Michigan's new coronavirus deaths below 100 for ninth straight day

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Michigan confirmed 24 deaths tied to the novel coronavirus on Monday — the ninth straight day with fewer than 100 new deaths from the illness reported in the state. 

It was also the fourth consecutive day that the state had fewer than 800 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 51,915 known cases since reporting began, according to state data.

Michigan reported 773 new cases Monday, which included 513 cases attributed to enhanced testing occurring in Michigan Department of Corrections facilities.

"Case and death trends continue to improve overall as a state," Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said Monday at a press briefing.

The state continues to rank seventh in the nation for its number of COVID-19 cases and fourth for deaths with 4,915 total — behind New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday announced the partial reopening of Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, which has had relatively few cases of COVID-19.

Her plan would reopen retail businesses and offices in those regions starting Friday, including bars and restaurants, which will be required to operate at 50% capacity. 

Those businesses also must train employees on safety protocol, keep groups six feet from one another and require workers to wear face coverings. 

Whitmer said she's watched how other states have fared in reopening their economies and recognized that having the confidence of the population is important.

"One of the challenges is, of course, that there is generally a two-week period of time between an action is taken and when you see you know what the result might be in terms of COVID-19 numbers," she said at a Monday press briefing.

"We are watching what other states are doing. We have to craft a plan that's right for Michigan, though. We've had a uniquely tough experience with COVID-19."

Southfield Fire Department Captain Melissa Medici draws a blood sample from a volunteer Avrohom Friedman, 26, of Southfield to be tested for coronavirus-fighting antibodies.  Friedman said he was never tested, but had symptoms of COVID-19 and then recovered.  Volunteers with Detroit Hatzalah EMS organized the testing Sunday, May 10, 2020 in tents set up outside Yeshiva Beth Yehudah school in Oak Park.

The regions moving forward with the next phase of reopening have had a sustained, low incidence of new cases per day, a steady decrease in "positivity" rates for tests for COVID-19, and a low average number of deaths each day when compared with the state average, Khaldun said.

Khaldun said officials are continuing to monitor other areas of the state where case numbers are declining, but they are not ready to move to the next stage of reopening.

"The Detroit Metro region continues to see improvements in the decline in cases, but they still have a relatively high rate at 27 cases per million people per day," Khaldun said.

"This area has also seen an increase over the past week in the percent of tests that are positive."

But the Detroit Metro region, including Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, including Detroit, reported just 82 total deaths Monday — the lowest in weeks, according to state data. 

The Grand Rapids area also has seen cases declining over the past two weeks, but it's still at a high case rate of 51 cases per million people a day," Khaldun said. 

Michigan is continuing to boost its testing capacity and hit a seven-day rolling average of more than 16,500 tests per day, which is a state record, Khaldun said. 

"I still want to remind people that we continue to need to take important precautions. This virus is still a threat, no matter what area of the state you live in," she said, urging special vigilance for those age 60 and older who are at greatest risk for complications and death.

"Please remain cautious. Wear a mask when you're out in public. Stay home if you are sick, or if you have been exposed to someone who has symptoms or has been diagnosed with COVID-19."

Not all nursing homes are complying with the state's COVID-19 reporting requirements, with Khaldun saying 95% have reported into the state's system at least once. 

The number of COVID-positive individuals in Michigan's nursing homes has fallen over the past week and stands at about 2,670, she said.

"We expect with targeted testing efforts that that number will be increasing, as we expect to find more cases. This is important because testing will allow us to appropriately isolate residents and prevent the disease from spreading," Khaldun noted. 

Officials also intend to make a number of changes with regard to reporting from these congregate facilities in part to align with new federal reporting requirements, as well as expanding these requirements for adult foster care facilities, assisted living facilities and homes for the aged, Khaldun said.