Michigan coronavirus cases still trending up with 660 added Friday

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Michigan continued its upward trend in coronavirus infections Friday, confirming 660 new cases of the disease COVID-19 and seven deaths. 

In addition to the 660 cases confirmed Friday, the state reported 94 probable cases of the disease statewide.

Michigan has seen its caseload growing for three weeks, and this week has already surpassed the seven-week high recorded last week, with 3,554 positive cases confirmed through Friday.

The seven-day average of new coronavirus cases in Michigan has risen to 601 daily, up from 421 a day for the previous seven-day period, according to state data.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 72,502 cases of COVID-19 and 6,108 deaths through Friday. With probable cases included, Michigan's case tally reaches 80,593 and 6,355 deaths. 

Bridget Foster, a registered nurse, hugs Terrell Harris, 26, left, as he leaves the hospital after a 15-week battle with COVID-19 on Thursday, July 9, 2020 at McLaren Flint, Mich., Harris was admitted to the hospital on March 28 when he tested positive for COVID-19.

The Grand Rapids region has the highest rate of new cases in Michigan, but caseloads are increasing in regions all around the state, including the Upper Peninsula, which had previously counted the fewest infections statewide. 

The Metro Detroit region has confirmed 2,276 cases so far in July, led by Oakland County with 740 cases of COVID-19 through Thursday. By comparison, the three-county area including Detroit reported 1,829 cases during the last 15 days of June, according to state data.

Kent County, which includes Grand Rapids, had confirmed 5,685 diagnosed cases of COVID through Friday and 143 deaths. It's adding an average of 60 new cases a day.

The county has boosted testing to 1,700 to 1,800 tests a day for the last two weeks,  which explains some of the uptick in positive cases the county is seeing, said Dr. Adam London, director of the county health department.

"As we do more testing, we're going to find more cases, and that's a good thing because as we find those cases, we can stop individual cases from coming outbreaks," London said in a video message on the health department's website. 

But London also noted the percentage of those testing positive for the virus is "creeping up," grown to over 4%, which is a "red flag for us that this is not going away any time soon," he said. 

"We continue to be very vulnerable. Most people have not been exposed to this virus. Most of you do not have any sort of immunity to this virus, so don't think that this has gone away," London said.

"But please, also, don't think that we're in the same sort of situation than many other states and many other locations around the country are in. Because we've done a good job in flattening the curve, we have not seen the high peaks and resurgence that other places have seen."

The rate of those testing positive for the virus statewide in Michigan has increased to over 3% in recent weeks and has averaged 3.48% so far this week. 

Hospitalizations due to the disease remain low statewide relative to the spring but are up 39% over two weeks ago. 

Hospitals reported 439 COVID-19 inpatients statewide as of Thursday, including 209 in critical care and 88 on ventilators. In mid-April, Michigan had 3,900 hospitalized with the disease.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer clarified Friday the medical exceptions for her requirement that masks be worn in indoor public spaces and in crowded outdoor venues.

Her latest executive order says that businesses "may not assume that an unmasked customer cannot medically tolerate a face covering, though they can accept a customer’s verbal representation to that effect."

She is also now requiring public safety officers to wear masks and said masks are encouraged but not required in polling places. Michigan's primary election is Aug. 4. 

London said it's "too bad" that mask-wearing has been controversial. He noted the growing base of "hard core" scientific literature showing that masks reduce the transmission of the coronavirus. 

"Reducing risk right now is the name of the game: Reduce risk and buy time. And if we do those things, we can continue to reopen, we can continue to keep transmission low, we can avoid overwhelming our health care systems," London said.

"So please, let's not make this a culture war issue."