COVID-19 modeling site moves Michigan's risk level to 'active or imminent outbreak'

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan moved into the highest risk level for daily new cases of COVID-19 Thursday on a nationwide warning system produced by the national nonprofit COVID Act Now

The group of technologists, epidemiologists, health experts and public policy leaders moved the state into a COVID risk level Thursday indicating an "active or imminent outbreak."

"Michigan is either actively experiencing an outbreak or is at extreme risk," the modeling site said. "COVID cases are exponentially growing and/or Michigan's COVID preparedness is significantly below international standards."

Michigan's elevation to active or imminent outbreak appears to be linked solely to case growth, as the site still ranks the state's ICU capacity as likely to be capable of handling a new wave of the virus. 

The state ranks 26th in the country for daily new cases, with a new case rate of 25.7 new cases per 100,000 per day, according to the site. 

The site pulls Michigan data from the New York Times, whose totals include both confirmed and probable cases and deaths. 

The top five counties for new case rates, according to the group, are all located in the Upper Peninsula: Gogebic, Dickinson, Delta, Ontonagon and Iron. 

After a peak in cases and hospitalizations in March and April, Michigan was one of three states in June that COVID Act Now moved to a lower risk level, one indicating the state was "on track to contain" the virus. "This is good news," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a news conference in June.

While case numbers remained somewhat steady through the summer, they have spiked again in the fall, an increase state officials are attributing to people letting down their guard and more gatherings moving indoors due to the cold. 

Michigan reported more new cases of COVID-19 last week, 13,129, than any other week since the pandemic began in March. 

At a Wednesday news conference, Whitmer called the trend "very concerning" and warned "We don’t want to drop our guard and see our numbers skyrocket."

While more testing is being done than in March and April, the increase cannot be solely attributed to that since the percentage of COVID-19 tests producing positive results also has increased. The positive rate lies at 5.4%, up from 3.3% three weeks ago. 

On Wednesday, the state reported 1,348 adults with COVID-19 had been hospitalized, up from the 405 adults with COVID-19 who were hospitalized a month ago. 

Michigan has reported 171,220 cases and 7,298 deaths through Thursday. A total of 114,939 people are considered recovered because they are still alive 30 days after the onset of symptoms. 

On Thursday, the state Department of Health and Human Services further limited the number of people who could gather at any given time and required restaurants to gather the names and phone numbers of patrons. 

The state was monitoring 446 new and active outbreaks as of Thursday.

An outbreak is defined as two or more COVID-19 cases among people who are from different households but may have shared exposure.

Staff Writer Craig Mauger contributed.