Michigan adds 4,273 COVID-19 cases, 73 more deaths

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Michigan added 4,273 cases and 73 more deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday as cases continue to surge across the state.

The latest additions bring the state's total of confirmed cases to 324,779 and deaths to 8,761 since the virus was first detected in Michigan in March, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Detroit police officer A. Hernandez sprays down her vehicle with alcohol at the start of her shift at the Detroit police department 4th Precinct in Detroit on April 14, 2020.  The police department has implemented various safety measures due to the coronavirus crisis.

Michigan finished last week with a record of 50,892 cases, the sixth consecutive record week for confirmed infections, surpassing last week's total of 44,019 new cases.

Pending regulatory approval, Michigan is slated to receive several hundred thousand doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine that will ship before the end of the year, health officials said Wednesday.

Shipments could be received by Henry Ford as early as Dec. 12, hospital officials said. Five of its hospitals are preparing to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in mid-December as two promising vaccines await approval, the one from Pfizer and another from Moderna.

Michigan has the fifth-highest number of cases and the fourth-highest number of deaths in the nation, in the last seven days, according to the CDC's COVID data tracker.

It also has the seventh-highest hospitalization rate and sixth-highest number of COVID patients in the ICU, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.

More than 17.5% of available inpatient beds are filled with COVID patients and state trends for hospitalizations for COVID continue to increase for the past six weeks, according to health department data.

The state set a new record for daily COVID-19 cases with 9,779 cases reported Friday, one week from its last record. The state has added 22,074 cases and 283 deaths since Sunday.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced wide-ranging new restrictions last week 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, effective through Dec. 8, indoor residential gatherings are limited to two households at any one time.

Child care centers, hair salons, retail shops and preschool through eighth-grade schools are 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.

Michigan's new cases have been doubling every two- to two-and-a-half weeks. 

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 on Nov. 7, 84 on Nov. 10, 118 on Nov. 13 and 145 Tuesday.

A week before Thanksgiving, Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun and Whitmer warned against holiday gatherings Thursday, saying residents should avoid having Thanksgiving with anyone outside of their own household.

Khaldun said every region of the state is experiencing "alarming" infection rates and positivity rates in testing for the virus.

"Indoor gatherings are a major way that COVID-19 is spreading right now.” Khaldun said. “And at the rates we’re seeing in the state, it is very likely that if you are gathering for Thanksgiving, the virus will also be around the table."

The state department is tracking wastewater surveillance is being conducted in 37 counties throughout Michigan, in both the upper and lower peninsulas. There are approximately 270 testing sites, which include wastewater treatment plants and congregate facilities, such as jails, long-term care facilities, K-12 schools, universities, child care facilities and group homes.

The virus can be detected in wastewater for up to seven days. Officials believe monitoring wastewater can provide an early indication for the presence of the disease in the community before critical illnesses occur.

Health care leaders are projecting that the state will exceed the spring hospitalization peak late this month.

About 3,709 adults were hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 and another 343 with suspected cases on Tuesday, compared with 999 COVID inpatients a month earlier on Oct. 13, according to state data.

Across the state, Michigan has just under 24,000 hospital inpatient beds. More than 77%, or 18,510, of those beds were filled as of Tuesday, 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 last week. "We are at the precipice, and we need to take some action."

The surge in cases comes as drugmakers are reporting encouraging results in trials of vaccines.

Moderna Inc. said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from an ongoing study. AstraZeneca said Monday that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals.