Michigan surpasses 10,000 deaths linked to COVID-19

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Michigan on Tuesday surpassed 10,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 since the virus was first detected in March.

The state reported a daily increase of 5,909 cases and 191 deaths from the virus — a near record. Of the Tuesday deaths, 79 were identified during a delayed records review, the state said.

The latest figures bring the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Michigan to 410,295 and deaths to 10,138, according to tracking by the state Department of Health and Human Services. 

People inside the Ambassador Nursing and Rehabilitation Center wear PPEs as they watch a protest in front of the Ambassador Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on E. Jefferson in Detroit, Thursday afternoon, April 9, 2020. SEIU Healthcare Michigan President Andrea Acevedo sent a letter detailing the abysmal conditions at Ambassador.

The state set a record of 193 deaths on Saturday, surpassing the previous record of 190 set Dec. 1. Saturday's deaths include 145 identified during a delayed records review.

Michigan reported a total of 45,015 new cases last week. It reported 47,316 new cases the previous week and established the weekly record of 50,892 cases three weeks ago.

The state was averaging nearly 84 daily cases per 100,000 people in the last week — the 10th highest rate in the country, according to ranking by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the past week, Michigan has recorded the sixth-highest number of cases and third-highest number of deaths, according to the CDC.

An average of 14.1% of diagnostic COVID tests run in the state in the past week are coming back positive, according to state data. A positivity rate above 3% is concerning to public health officials.

Of the state's COVID patients, 2,585 are in intensive care units and ICU beds are at 81% capacity, according to state data from Friday. There are 1,552 patients on ventilators. 

As of Friday, 4,113 adults were hospitalized statewide with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. That's compared with 2,199 COVID inpatients on Nov. 4.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered U.S. and Michigan flags to be lowered to half-staff for 10 days — representing one day per 1,000 deaths — Tuesday through Dec. 18 to honor and mourn those who have lost their lives due to the coronavirus.  

“Our nation is grieving alongside each of the families who have an empty seat at the dinner table each night or who will be missing family members during the holiday season,” Whitmer said. “Right now, we need to listen to our scientists and medical professionals who are asking us to double down on wearing masks and maintaining physical distancing to prevent an unnecessarily greater loss of life.

"With a vaccine on the horizon, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we each need to do our part until then," she said. "We will get through this together.”   

Deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to more than 2,200 a day on average, matching the frightening peak reached last April. Cases per day have eclipsed 200,000 on average for the first time on record, with the crisis all but certain to get worse because of the fallout from Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.

Virtually every state is reporting surges just as a vaccine appears days away from getting the go-ahead in the U.S.

“The epidemic in the U.S. is punishing. It’s widespread. It’s quite frankly shocking to see one to two persons a minute die in the U.S. — a country with a wonderful, strong health system, amazing technological capacities,” Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s chief of emergencies, told the Associated Press.

The virus is blamed for more than 280,000 deaths and almost 15 million confirmed infections in the United States.

On Thursday, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is widely expected to authorize emergency use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, and shots could begin almost immediately after that. Britain on Tuesday started dispensing the Pfizer vaccine, becoming the first country in the West to begin mass vaccinations.

While there are some signs of improvement in caseloads, the rate remains more than seven times the rate from the beginning of September, the state's chief medical executive Joneigh Khaldun said Monday.

“We know that some people will lose their battle with COVID-19 and die. Each metric takes time for us to see as the virus spreads and we know that some metrics will change sooner than others,” Khaldun said. “This virus is real. People are still coming into ERs even weeks after they’ve been diagnosed.”

The state was tracking at least 1,038 active outbreaks as of the week of Monday. Top categories for outbreaks continue to be long-term care facilities, including nursing homes as well as manufacturing and construction sites and schools.

On Dec. 3, 253 new outbreaks were reported across the state, including 77 at longterm care facilities, 40 in manufacturing or construction, 34 at K-12 schools, and 24 in office settings.

Whitmer on Monday extended restrictions through Dec. 20, limiting gatherings at high schools, colleges and restaurants to combat what she described as the "worst moment" yet in the pandemic. 

The policies temporarily halt in-person instruction at high schools and colleges, indoor dine-in service at restaurants and bars, and high school athletics as well as close some businesses, including movie theaters, bowling alleys and casinos.

Michigan's hospital association urged the state to extend the pause, arguing that the closure of indoor restaurant dining and in-person high school classes is "slowly stabilizing the spread of COVID-19 and leading to stabilized hospitals."

"Data is indicating slight declines in COVID-19 emergency department visits, daily admissions and total hospitalizations," the association said in a statement. "As physicians, we’re telling you: These measures are working."

Still, the hospital system continues to face staffing shortages and bed capacity concerns, the statement said. 

"Our teams on the front lines are exhausted as this second surge continues; we never truly recovered from the first," the statement said.

The state considers 197,750 people recovered from the virus as of Friday.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

The Associated Press contributed.