Michigan adds 7,458 more COVID-19 cases, 79 deaths

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Michigan added 7,458 more coronavirus cases and 79 deaths Tuesday as infections surge across the nation.

The new additions bring the state's total of confirmed cases to 272,034 since the virus was first detected in Michigan in March, according to tracking by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The death toll stands at 8,128 but rises to 8,511 when probable deaths are counted. 

Michigan shattered its weekly coronavirus case record last week with a total of 44,019 new cases reported, the fifth consecutive record week for confirmed infections.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced wide-ranging new restrictions Sunday night to combat what she described as the "worst moment" yet in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services ordered a temporary pause on in-person learning for high schools and colleges, suspension of in-person dining at restaurants and bars, and the closure of bowling alleys, movie theaters and casinos.

Under the order, which goes into effect Wednesday and runs through Dec. 8, indoor residential gatherings will be limited to two households at any one time.

Child care centers, hair salons, retail shops and preschool through eighth-grade schools will still be allowed to operate. Parks and outdoor recreation areas will continue to be open, and gatherings of up to 25 people can take place at funerals. Restaurants can offer take-out and outdoor dining, while gyms and pools can be open for individual exercise.

About 3,190 adults were hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 and another 400 with suspected cases on Monday, compared with 999 COVID inpatients a month earlier on Oct. 13, according to state data.

A chunk of last week's case record was added Friday when the state saw 118 virus-related deaths and a daily record of 8,516 new cases of COVID-19. The state also added 7,072 cases and 65 deaths Saturday.

The state reported 416 new deaths linked to the virus last week, which was the largest weekly total since early May.

Michigan's new cases have been doubling every two- to two-and-a-half weeks. The previous weekly high of confirmed cases was set the week ending Nov. 7, at 29,614.

Single-day spikes in COVID cases have sometimes been attributed to a backlog in labs processing tests, but the state was not aware of any backlog that resulted in Friday's large number of new cases being reported.

"Unfortunately, this is a continuation of the very concerning spike in cases, deaths and hospitalizations," Bob Wheaton, spokesman for the Michigan health department, said Friday.

"We continue to ask people to wear masks, physically distance, wash their hands frequently and avoid indoor gatherings with people from outside their households."

Michigan’s daily record for deaths was reached on April 16 with 164.

Deaths stayed near single digits each day from July through September but spiked again with 10 to 18 per day in early October. Deaths have been trending upward this month, with 43 on Nov. 3, 65 Saturday, 84 Tuesday and 118 on Friday.

"If you are considering spending Thanksgiving with people outside of your household, I urge you to reconsider," Whitmer said Sunday.

About family members, she added, "As hard as it is not seeing them this Thanksgiving, imagine how much harder it would be if you weren’t able to see them for a future holiday ever again."

Hospitalizations of virus patients in Michigan are up more than five-fold over six weeks, officials say. Health care leaders are projecting that the state will exceed the spring hospitalization peak late this month.

Across the state, Michigan has just under 24,000 hospital inpatient beds. Over 70%, or 17,626, of those beds were filled as of Monday, according to data reported to the state by 88% of hospital systems. Intensive care beds were at 80% capacity, according to the reporting hospitals.

Unlike the spring surge, which was concentrated in southeast Michigan, this escalation is spread across the state. Nearly 11% of COVID tests run in the state are coming back positive. A positivity rate above 3% is concerning to public health officials.

"The situation has never been more dire," Whitmer said Sunday. "We are at the precipice, and we need to take some action."

Last week, Pfizer Inc. announced its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine was found 90% effective in partial results of Phase 3 clinical trials. On Monday, Moderna Inc. said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from an ongoing study.

On Thursday, chief executives of five major hospital systems across Michigan tried to wake up the public to the "exponential" rate of infection spread as patients fill up emergency rooms and hospital beds.

The hospital leaders pleaded with community members to help stem the spread by wearing masks, washing their hands, practicing social distancing and staying away from large social gatherings so medical centers don't become overrun with patients.

"The health care system can capsize if you don't keep it under control," Beaumont Health CEO John Fox said. 

The state was tracking more than 900 active outbreaks as of Sunday, its highest number yet, Khaldun said.

Top categories for outbreaks continue to be long-term care settings, such as nursing homes, manufacturing facilities and schools, but health officials are also seeing increases in the numbers of outbreaks in healthcare settings and in restaurants and bars, she said.

The state released 63 new school-related outbreaks adding to more than 150 existing outbreaks, the majority of which are at high schools.

At long-term care facilities, there are 991 new resident cases and 166 new deaths from the virus for a total of 12,449 cases and 3,018 deaths. Staff members continue to face hurdles within the facilities. There are 1,055 new confirmed staff cases for a total of 8,684 cases and 35 staff deaths, according to the state department.

Khaldun cautioned the state's contact-tracing system is "strained" right now due to the sheer volume of cases.

"While our local health departments are doing their best, as they have been doing all year, the system is simply not keeping up. It, too, has limited capacity," Khaldun said.

"Because there are now so many positive cases, and those cases, each have so many contacts, it is taking longer for us to reach all of them. This means that there may be people walking around who are a close contact with a positive case, and they don't even know it."

She said fewer than a third of positive cases the state is investigating were among people in quarantine at the time of their diagnosis, meaning over two-thirds of people with positive cases are out and about, potentially spreading the virus to others. 


Twitter: @SarahRahal_`