New COVID-19 cases, deaths drop as more Michigan regions could see lifted restrictions

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths in Michigan dropped this week as state officials said more regions could see lifted restrictions in the "coming days."

Over the week, the state confirmed 2,519 new cases and 240 new deaths linked to the virus, according to data released by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The weekly new case total was the lowest in 10 weeks, and the weekly new death total was the lowest in nine weeks.

"If we continue on the trajectory that we are on, in the coming days, we'll have additional regions that we'll be looking to moving forward," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a press conference Friday. "Everyone wants to know precisely when that's going to be, and I think that is one of the frustrations that is real. It's legitimate."

A sign at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing location in Lansing tells drivers to "proceed ahead." No testing appeared to be occurring at the site on Tuesday morning, April 14, 2020.

The department reported 263 new cases and 57 new deaths Saturday, 81 days since the state confirmed its first cases on March 10. The cumulative totals are now 56,884 cases and 5,463 deaths.

Of the 57 new deaths, 37 were confirmed through a review of past death certificates.

The department also reported the number of COVID-19 recoveries — individuals who survived 30 days after the onset of illness — had grown from 33,168 last week to 38,099 as of Friday.

The number of recoveries is increasing while the number of tests for the novel coronavirus bringing positive results continues to trend downward. As of Wednesday, the state had reported seven straight days with less than 5% of the diagnostic tests here being positive. The state has expanded access to testing in the last weeks.

The overall percentage of positive tests since March 10 is about 13%, according to state data.

Whitmer issued her initial stay-at-home order on March 23. Her latest stay-at-home order runs through June 12.

But the governor has already lifted some restrictions statewide and others specifically in two of the state's eight "economic recovery" regions: Northern Lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. In those regions, bars and restaurants can currently operate at half capacity along with other safety measures.

On Friday, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive, said if the downward trend in cases continues, more regions will be able to move to new phases of the state's reopening plan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration unveiled this graphic on Thursday, May 7, 2020, explaining phases for lifting COVID-19 restrictions in Michigan.

Currently, the state is generally in the third stage, which is labeled "flattening," of the six-phase plan. In the fourth phase, labeled "improving," more businesses can reopen and small gatherings are allowed.

Michigan, which once had the third highest death total and number of cases nationally, now has the eighth most confirmed cases and the fifth most deaths linked to the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University. In deaths, Michigan is behind New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.