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Michigan sets another new COVID record with 5,710 cases

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Michigan shattered its daily COVID-19 case record again Thursday as it surpassed 5,000 in a day, joining other Midwestern states reporting an explosion of cases.

With Thursday's 5,710 high case mark, Michigan joined 14 other states setting new single-day records the same day. Michigan's neighbors — Ohio (4,961 cases), Indiana (4,426), Wisconsin (5,922) and Illinois (9,935) — were among the record-breakers.

"If we want to avoid looking like Wisconsin, we have got to take action now," said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of the state across Lake Michigan, which has a 30% positivity rate, quadruple that of Michigan.

Thursday was the fourth time in the past two weeks Michigan set a record case count.

Michigan’s record for deaths, meanwhile, was reached on April 16 with 164. Deaths stayed near single digits from July through September but spiked again with 10-18 per day in early October. Deaths rose on Oct. 23 with 34, 43 on Nov. 3 and reached a recent high on Thursday with 51 deaths. In the past week, the state has added 172 deaths.

Thursday's additions bring the state's total number of confirmed cases to 197,806 and total confirmed deaths to 7,470, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Previously, Michigan set a new daily record of confirmed cases of 4,101 on Wednesday, surpassing the previous one set Saturday at 3,792 cases.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive, said Thursday that she's "very concerned" about what she's seeing across Michigan. The state's averaging 261 cases per million people, and new cases are five times the amount recorded in early September.

"We've performed 43,000 diagnostic tests per day over the past week; however, the percent of those tests that are coming back positive is increasing and is 7.5% and has been increasing for the past five weeks," Khaldun said. Experts prefer a positivity rate of 3% as a benchmark to show the spread is limited.

Regionally, the Upper Peninsula has the highest case rate at 509 cases per million, which has been increasing for nine weeks straight. Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo have 370 and 331 cases per million and both regions have the highest test positivity rate in the state at over 9%.

Detroit, Saginaw, Lansing and Traverse City regions all have more than 200 cases per million and between 5.5% and 7.7% positivity rates. The Jackson region has the lowest case rate at 193 cases per million and positivity rate at 4.1%, Khaldun said.

Michigan accounted for a record total of 20,154 cases last week, making it the third consecutive week to break weekly records. It shattered the record set the week before of 13,129 confirmed cases and the 10,241 cases recorded three weeks ago.

With probable cases included, the state's numbers are even higher. As of Thursday, Michigan has 218,263 probable and confirmed cases and 7,883 probable and confirmed deaths.

The United States added a record of 102,830 cases and 1,097 deaths Thursday, totaling 9.4 million cases and 233,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

While testing for the virus has increased greatly, Michigan is also seeing upticks in hospitalizations and deaths linked to the virus.

As of Thursday, the state reported 1,900 people are hospitalized with confirmed cases of the virus. Of those hospitalized, 183 people are on ventilators and 408 are in intensive care units. The state also reported 242 people hospitalized with suspected virus cases.

"Hospitalizations are almost four times more than we saw at the end of August," Khaldun said. "We're not yet seeing hospitalizations we saw in the spring but they are rapidly rising. About 60% of COVID hospitalizations are occurring outside of southeast Michigan."

As hospitalizations increase, officials expect deaths to follow in weeks.

"Our seven-day average for deaths is 19, twice what it was at the beginning of September. We have models that estimate if we don't do anything else, if we don't change our behaviors, we could be seeing 100 deaths a day by the end of December," Khaldun said. "We are really at a tipping point right now."

Local health departments are investigating 590 outbreaks across the state, the largest since the beginning of the pandemic. They're occurring in long-term care, schools, manufacturing, constructions, health care and social gatherings, the state said.

Whitmer called on Republican lawmakers on Thursday to approve a statewide mask requirement. The requirement is already in place through the state health department, but the Democratic governor said the policy is "critical" and "deserves the Legislature’s stamp of approval.”

"This is the law under epidemic orders, but we do think that it would be helpful to our health, our safety and our economy if it was codified in a bipartisan way by the Legislature," Whitmer said.

Dr. Preeti Malani, chief health officer and a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan, said their Ann Arbor hospital was recently stable with single digits of COVID-19 cases, but in the past few days, cases have been skyrocketing.

"There's not one specific reason why this is happening. There is still a lot about this virus that we don't understand," she said. "It's not simply testing, but the increased percentage in positive results show we are spreading this, and in our surrounding communities (outside of southeast Michigan), it's spreading rapidly."

Malani said the numbers are alarming as the holiday season approaches.

"Deaths easy to measure but other effects of COVID are important, too. One thing we're concerned about is the long-term effects of the spread among young people ages 20-39," she said. "As communities start to gather and you have the mixing of intergenerational families this is a set up to have people who are more vulnerable to have critical outcomes."

Last week, the state health department unveiled orders that limit non-residential indoor gatherings without fixed seating to 50 people — the limit was 500 — and restrict individual table sizes at restaurants to six people.

Michigan restaurants also began tracking the names and numbers of customers in case of COVID-19 outbreaks on Monday. Michigan's K-12 schools and higher education institutions had 45 new outbreaks, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported Monday. 

There were 31 new outbreaks linked to long-term care facilities such as nursing facilities, assisted living centers, adult day cares and group homes, that add to the 75 outbreaks that were previously reported and are ongoing. 

The long-term care facilities account for 10,344 resident cases and 2,593 resident deaths. More than 6,440 staff members also have confirmed cases and have accounted for 24 staff member deaths.

As of Saturday, Michigan considered 121,093 people to have recovered from the virus. 

Denise Fair, Detroit's chief public health officer, told City Council this week that the city is seeing about 70 new cases per day, up from about 30 per day a couple of weeks ago.

On Monday, there were 90 patients hospitalized with the virus, Fair said.

"Based on where we’re going right now," there could be as many as 400 people hospitalized by Christmas. "COVID is not going anywhere and we have to remain strong," she said.

Still, the city’s positivity rate is 3.6%, which is lower than neighboring counties and the state’s rate of 7.8%. As of Thursday, Detroit has recorded 16,090 confirmed cases of the virus and 1,555 deaths.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

Staff Writer Christine Ferretti contributed.