Michigan surpasses 200,000 COVID cases, 7,500 deaths

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Michigan surpassed 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,500 deaths Friday as it set, for a fourth consecutive week, a record for positive cases.

With 23,389 cases through Friday — and an additional day still to add Saturday — the state broke last week's previous record high of 20,154 confirmed cases as well as the two previous weeks' records. 

Friday's additions of 3,763 confirmed cases and 43 additional deaths brought the state's total number of confirmed cases to 201,569 and total confirmed deaths to 7,513, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

A chunk of the week's cases arrived from Thursday, when the state set a new daily record of 5,710 cases, joining other Midwestern states reporting an explosion of cases.

Michigan's neighbors — Ohio (5,494 cases), Indiana (4,462), Wisconsin (6,141) and Illinois (10,376) — broke single-day records again Friday after doing so Thursday.

“We have a common enemy, and it is COVID-19, not one another," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a Friday statement. "This pandemic has ravaged our state. We are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

"If we continue on the path we’re on, we could see 100 deaths every day by Christmas. And it’s not going away. Fighting this virus has always been a team sport — one that requires leaders from both sides of the aisle to work together to keep Michiganders safe."

Whitmer said she's ready to work with the Legislature to keep families safe. She 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.”

Michigan’s record for deaths 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.

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 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.

The United States added a record of 121,890 cases and 1,210 deaths Friday, totaling 9.6 million cases and 234,900 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 Friday, the state reported 2,088 people were hospitalized with confirmed cases of the virus. Of those hospitalized, 202 people were on ventilators and 484 were in intensive care units. The state also reported 323 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.

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."

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 6,442 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. 


Twitter: @SarahRahal_