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Michigan reports 15 deaths, over 600 new cases of COVID-19

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Michigan confirmed 15 coronavirus deaths Friday and 612 new cases, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a mask mandate in an attempt to stem the virus' spread in the state. 

Michigan has seen growth in the number of new cases of the disease COVID-19 in the last three weeks. Friday was the second time this week the single-day case count topped 600, which hadn't happened since May.

The average number of new cases for the past seven days ending Friday is up to 451 a day from an average of 349 a day for the previous seven-day period, according to state data. 

While reported deaths and hospitalizations due to the disease remain relatively low, that could change in the coming weeks, health leaders warned Thursday. 

Michigan had a six-week high for newly confirmed infections last week, surpassing 2,500 cases during the week ending July 4. In addition to the 612 cases confirmed Friday, the state reported 10 probable cases.

The state health department had confirmed 68,295 cases of COVID-19 and 6,039 deaths through Friday. When probable cases are added, Michigan's case total reaches 75,685, and the death toll is 6,285. 

Delta Airlines customer service agent Monica Miller wears a protective mask and is guarded by a plastic shield as she assist a customer inside the McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Romulus.

This week's death total was a three-week high with 67 deaths through Friday, compared with 65 deaths last week and 64 the week prior. 

However, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services indicated that Friday's death tally of 15 was made up of older deaths identified by comparing death certificate data with the state's registry of laboratory-confirmed cases. These deaths might have occurred days or weeks ago. 

Hospitals so far have not reported a major jump in COVID-19 patients in Michigan, with 363 inpatients with COVID as of Thursday, including 180 in critical care and 92 on ventilators.

That’s a 15% increase compared with 315 COVID inpatients a week ago, including 180 in critical care and 92 on ventilators. In mid-April, Michigan saw 3,900 in hospitals statewide with COVID-19.

Whitmer in issuing her mask order Friday said face coverings can reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 by about 70%, and that wearing them would save lives.

Her order requires masks to be worn in crowded outdoor spaces. Also, any business open to the public must refuse service to people who won't wear face coverings, with limited exceptions. 

Willful violations of the new order, which takes effect Monday, can bring misdemeanor penalties, potentially a $500 fine.

The state is performing more COVID tests than ever, but that alone does not explain the level of increase in new infections, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said Thursday.

Also, the coronavirus positivity rate in Michigan — the percentage of those testing positive for the virus out of those tested overall — has increased from 2% to 3% in recent weeks. It was reported at 3.23% Thursday.

"What this implies is that we are also seeing increases in cases because there's true spread of the disease. So right now, the data is not looking so good," Khaldun said at a Thursday press briefing. 

"We really do need to get back on track and in the right direction again."