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Michigan reports 891 cases, highest single-day total in two months

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Michigan reported four coronavirus deaths Wednesday and confirmed 891 new cases of the disease COVID-19 — the largest single-day case tally in two months. 

For three weeks, infections have been increasing statewide in Michigan with the state recording a seven-week high for new cases last week. In addition to the 891 cases confirmed Wednesday, the state reported 158 probable cases.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said the high number of new cases reported Wednesday were “very concerning.” 

Michigan Chief Medical Executive and MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, urges Michigan residents to wear masks in public.

The seven-day average of new coronavirus cases in Michigan is up to 566 a day from 413 daily for the previous seven-day period, according to state data. Wednesday's total was the highest daily case count since May 14 when Michigan reported 1,191 new cases.

The Grand Rapids region has the highest rate of new cases at 53 new cases per million residents per day. Upper Peninsula cases have been rising for six weeks to hit its highest rate of new cases for the entire outbreak, Khaldun said.

The state is at a "turning point" in its fight against a second surge in COVID cases, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday. 

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, seen here with Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist and Chief Medical Executive and MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, right,  urges Michigan residents to wear masks in public.

The continued operation of businesses and in-person instruction at schools this fall will depend on controlling the spread of infection in the coming weeks, urging people to abide by her enhanced mask requirements. 

"A second wave of this virus could be absolutely devastating," Whitmer said.

The state health department confirmed 71,197 cases of COVID-19 and 6,085 deaths through Wednesday. When probable cases are added, Michigan's case total reaches 78,913 and 6,330 deaths. 

Testing is increasing statewide, which is a good thing, Khaldun noted.

“What’s concerning, however, is that as we are increasing our testing, the percent of those tests that are coming back positive is also increasing,” Khaldun said.

The rate of those testing positive for the virus grew from 2% in recent weeks to 3.4% last week — a six-week high. It was reported at 3.53% Tuesday. Many health experts say states should want to be under 3%, Khaldun added.

"This is an indicator that there is ongoing spread of the disease, and we're not simply seeing more cases just because we are doing increased testing," she said. 

Outbreaks have been traced to people gathering in multiple settings including bars, churches, offices, gyms, long-term care facilities, weddings and family dinner parties, Khaldun said.

"But we also know is that there are many cases where we do not know the source" of the transmission, she added. 

"And this is really important. This means that it is spreading in the community, and it's even more importantly why we should all be wearing our masks."

Hospitalizations due to the disease are low relative to the high point in the spring but ticking up. Hospitals reported 428 COVID inpatients statewide as of Wednesday, including 204 in critical care and 107 on ventilators.

That’s a 23% increase compared with a week ago, when hospitals statewide reported 349 inpatients with COVID-19, including 174 in critical care and 93 on ventilators. In mid-April, Michigan had 3,900 hospitalized with COVID-19.

Khaldun noted age distribution for recent cases has changed, and the group with the highest rate of new infections is 20- to 29-year-olds, followed by 30- to 39-year-olds.

"Young people have to understand that they are not immune to this disease. Young people can get very sick from this disease. They can be hospitalized, and they can even die," she said. 

"Even if someone no longer needs to be in the hospital, there are possible long-term health impacts from COVID-19, many of which are still unknown."

Khaldun noted some have persistent lung damage, and studies and reports also suggest long-term brain damage and psychiatric "challenges" as a result of COVID-19 infection. 

She urged people to get tested for the virus if they are working outside the home, if they feel sick, or if they have been close to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID or are having symptoms. 

Urging people to wear masks, Khaldun said a simple cloth face covering can reduce the chance of spreading the virus by about 70%.

"I just want everyone to know this is not a joke. It is not a hoax. This is not about politics," she said. 

"Just wear your mask because you want to live, and you want to protect those around you. It's one easy action, that makes us all safer."

While regions around Michigan are seeing growth in virus cases, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is eyeing the Grand Rapids area in particular as an emerging hot spot. 

The department is sending an interagency COVID-19 response field team to the region to support local and state efforts to identify the root cause of infection spread at the community level, identify best practices and launch broader efforts to stop the spread, a spokeswoman said this week.

This is the first time such a team has been deployed in Michigan, said Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the state health department.

In other hot spots, the federal interagency teams have looked at addressing the need for adequate data, assess testing capabilities and plans, and protecting vulnerable populations like seniors.

"We don't expect there to be a widely available vaccine for COVID-19 for several months. We all know there is no antiviral treatment," Khaldun said.

"So the most important thing and really the only thing we can do to prevent spread the disease is to not come in contact with the virus in the first place. This means basic public health practices like washing hands, maintaining 6 feet of distance between you and other people and wearing a mask."

Michigan ranks 13th in the nation for its reported cases of COVID-19 and seventh for deaths, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University. 

mburke@detroitnews.com 

Staff Writer Craig Mauger contributed.