COVID-19 case surge may be Michigan's 'beginning of a second wave'

Michigan added 1,237 new coronavirus cases and 30 more deaths on Tuesday — putting October on pace to generate Michigan's biggest month for new cases since April, when the virus peaked in the state. 

The daily average for new cases has increased each month since June. 

"It is very possible that this is the beginning of a second wave," Michigan Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun told a Tuesday meeting of state and public health officials.

In a Detroit News interview last week, Khaldun said she is "very concerned" about the upward trend of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the state.

The seven-day average for daily new cases through Tuesday now stands at 1,125 cases per day. For the first 13 days of October, the daily average is 1,001 cases per day. 

The October trend is a 35% increase over September's daily average of 740 cases. The daily average for August was 673.

The state is averaging 89 cases per million people per day.

Why uptick 'concerning'

While summer spikes in numbers largely involved younger people, who are largely less susceptible to more serious cases, the state is starting to see an uptick of infections in its older population as well, Khaldun said.

Across the state, the increase in cases is believed to be largely attributable to gatherings — be it social events, reopened schools or open businesses — especially as some of those events move indoors in cooler weather, she said. 

“We need to remain very concerned about what we’re seeing across the state, and we need people to stay vigilant,” Khaldun said. 

More tests are coming back positive and more residents are being hospitalized for the virus. Michigan now has 3.6% of COVID-19 tests returned positive, compared with 3.4% last week and less than 3% in June, and 767 COVID-19 hospitalizations compared with 586 hospitalizations a week ago, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.  

Of the deaths added on Tuesday, 10 were identified during a delayed records review, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services 

The new additions bring the state's total number of cases to 137,702 and total deaths to 6,928. 

'Here we go again'

Brian Peters, CEO for the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, said it is critical the public step up efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, avoiding large groups and observing a quarantine when necessary.

“Hospitalizations are now approaching the troubling levels we saw earlier this summer, and in the past few weeks, the number of Michigan residents admitted with COVID-19 to our member hospitals throughout the state has risen by more than 80%,” Peters said. 

"This is not an isolated trend. In fact, all regions in the state are seeing more individuals need hospital care for COVID-19."

In the Upper Peninsula, there are now more COVID-19 hospitalizations than there were at the height of the pandemic in the spring, Peters said. While curbing the increase is critical, hospitals are not in a capacity crisis just yet. 

Michigan's hospitals are more prepared than they were in the spring to handle a surge in patients, Peters noted. Most hospitals now have a plan for surge capacity, personal protective equipment is more readily available and more is known about the treatment options that work best against the disease, he said. 

Feedback from hospitals across the state, Peters said, has included concerns about nearly full emergency departments, staff members on quarantine and one hospital official who simply said, “Here we go again.”

Problems in the U.P.

In the Upper Peninsula, officials are experiencing levels of spread that they have not seen before, said Nick Derusha, health officer for the Luce-Mackinac-Alger-Schoolcraft District Health Department. 

The Upper Peninsula’s case incidence rests at about 70 new cases per million people per day, “and in many places well above that,” he said. 

The uptick is not due to summer tourism as was once expected, said Derusha, who also is director of the Michigan Association for Local Public Health.

“We are seeing local transmission,” said Derusha, urging residents to cooperate with instructions to wear masks, avoid large gatherings, quarantine or isolate. In some instances, individuals have broken quarantine to attend another social event only to test positive later, he said.

“We understand that a lot of people in the U.P. have gotten tired of public health recommendations as case numbers remained low for so long,” Derusha said. “But now more than ever, we need your help to contain the spread of the virus within our communities.”

The statements came as an Upper Peninsula prison was bringing in extra staff to help it deal with a coronavirus outbreak that has idled 79 staffers while 158 inmates have tested positive.

Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz says 28 Marquette Branch Prison staff are off now after testing positive, 37 staff are off work as close contacts and 14 staff are off because they are symptomatic.

Probable cases, outbreaks

Michigan's numbers are higher when probable cases are included. Michigan has 152,862 probable and confirmed cases and 7,255 confirmed and probable deaths, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

As of Saturday, the state considers 104,270 people recovered from the virus.

The state tested 38,559 individuals on Monday, the last day the data are provided. Out of those people, 36,745 results came back negative, giving Michigan a 4.7% positivity rate. 

The number of virus outbreaks were also updated Monday to include outbreaks reported as of Oct. 8.

Michigan's schools have recorded 26 new outbreaks as of Monday. Of the outbreaks, 18 were at K-12 schools. See an updated list of school outbreaks online.

Overall across the state, Michigan has 123 outbreaks, which are defined as two or more cases with a link by place and time indicating a shared exposure outside of a household.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

Associated Press contributed.