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Michigan sets daily record for COVID-19 deaths

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Michigan on Tuesday reported a record 190 deaths tied to COVID-19 and added 5,793 new cases. Of the Tuesday deaths, 30 were identified during a delayed records review, the state said.

With the additional records, Tuesday surpassed the previous high for deaths of 164 reached on April 16, at the peak of the pandemic, a day that had no additional reviewed records added.

The latest additions bring the state's total of confirmed cases to 366,242 and deaths to 9,324 since the virus was first detected in Michigan in March, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

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 20% of available inpatient beds are filled with COVID patients and state trends for hospitalizations for COVID continue to increase for the past six weeks, the state's Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun said Tuesday.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the state Tuesday, telling residents "I'm not going to sugarcoat this, the next couple months are going to be hard."

"Too many people traveled for Thanksgiving and we will see our numbers increase, very likely because of it," she said. "They'll coincide with the next big holiday, Christmas. Too many people are considering traveling and I'm reiterating, please don't."

The state's health department last month 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 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.

A group of Michigan physicians Tuesday released a statement calling on restaurant owners to avoid the rush to reopen dining rooms in the name of public health.

COVID-19 cases have been declining for the past week, but Khaldun stressed Tuesday they're anticipating a spike in the next two weeks as a result of Thanksgiving travel.

"We are cautiously optimistic," Khaldun said. "Based on what we are seeing, more people started doing the right thing towards the beginning of November. That means wearing masks, not gathering and maintaining six feet of distance from other."

The state on Nov. 20 set a new record, reporting 9,779 cases for a single day. 

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 in November, with 43 on Nov. 3, 65 on Nov. 7, 84 on Nov. 10, 118 on Nov. 13, 145 on Nov. 24 and 190 on Tuesday.

State officials are anticipating vaccines soon as drugmakers are reporting encouraging results in trials.

Moderna Inc. said Monday it would ask U.S. and European regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection.

AstraZeneca said 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.

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

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.

More than 100 hospitals and local health department sites across the state have the ability to store and distribute the Moderna vaccine, which doesn’t require ultra-cold freezers.

Khaldun said the state right now is prioritizing vaccinations for healthcare workers. As vaccine availability expands, officials hope to provide it to individuals in congregate care and skilled nursing facilities, depending on the supply.

Khaldun said she hopes the vaccine will readily available to the general public by late spring.

The state also is tracking wastewater 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 centers, 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.

Michigan added 35 new school outbreaks on Monday to its list of more than 200 ongoing outbreaks reported in the last two weeks.

"Our school officials are scrambling to make ends meet. Providing some support for them is going to make and take a commitment at every level of government," Whitmer said Tuesday. "That means a bipartisan recovery package at the federal level, to help our schools."

About 3,879 adults were hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 and another 427 with suspected cases on Monday, compared with 999 COVID inpatients on Oct. 13, according to state data.

Unlike the spring surge, which was concentrated in southeast Michigan, this escalation of the virus is spread across the state. About 12.5% of COVID tests run in the state are coming back positive. A positivity rate above 3% is concerning to public health officials.

Denise Fair, chief public health office for Detroit, said Tuesday she's pleased that the city's positivity rating for COVID-19 is 8.2%, far below surrounding counties. 

"Our residents continue to take this seriously wearing masks and social distancing," Fair said. "Our business owners are going through a hard time now but they understand the importance of these policies." 

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_