Michigan reports 645 new COVID-19 cases as infection spread continues to grow

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Michigan confirmed 16 more coronavirus deaths and 645 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday as infections have been growing statewide in Michigan for three weeks — a trend the state's top medical officer called "very concerning" Wednesday. 

In addition to the 645 cases confirmed Thursday, the state reported 281 probable cases.

The seven-day average of new coronavirus cases in Michigan has risen to 594 daily, up from 399 a day for the previous seven-day period, according to state data.

The Grand Rapids region has the highest rate of new cases at 53 new cases per million residents per day, but infections are rising in regions around the state, including the Upper Peninsula, which is seeing its highest rate of new cases for the entire outbreak, said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan's chief medical executive, on Wednesday. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer indicated this week that the continued operation of auto manufacturing plants and the restart of in-person instruction at schools could be in jeopardy if Michigan is unable to control the recent growth of COVID-19 cases. 

Workers leave after their shift at Fiat Chrysler's Warren Truck Plant in May on their first day back at work after the coronavirus shutdown.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 71,842 cases of COVID-19 and 6,101 deaths through Thursday. When probable cases are added, Michigan's case tally reaches 79,839 and 6,348 deaths. 

Thirteen of the coronavirus deaths reported Thursday are older deaths identified during a review of vital records, according to the department. These deaths might have occurred days or weeks ago.

The state also reported two additional probable deaths Thursday, bringing the day's tally to 18 total deaths. Probable deaths are individuals who didn't test positive for the virus but whose death certificate listed COVID-19 as a cause of death. 

The rate of those testing positive for the virus in Michigan grew from 2% in recent weeks to 3.4% last week — a six-week high. It was reported at 3.47% Wednesday. Leading health experts say states should want to be under 3%, Khaldun said.

"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 tied to gatherings of people, but in many cases health officials do not know the source of the transmission, meaning the virus is spreading in the community.

"It's even more importantly why we should all be wearing our masks," she said. 

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

In mid-April, Michigan had 3,900 hospitalized with the disease.

Khaldun 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%.

"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," she said.