SUBSCRIBE NOW
$3 for 3 months. Save 90%.
SUBSCRIBE NOW
$3 for 3 months. Save 90%.

Michigan adds 7,341 cases, 254 deaths linked to COVID-19 over three days

Sarah Rahal Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Michigan confirmed 7,341 new cases of the coronavirus and 254 deaths linked to COVID-19 on Saturday, including cases from Christmas Eve day and Christmas Day.

The latest figures bring the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Michigan to 477,269 and deaths to 12,029 since the virus was first detected in March, according to tracking by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The state recorded 568 deaths this week. The state recorded 799 deaths last week, following a record of 808 deaths the prior week.

The state recorded 18,417 cases this week. Over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the average number of new confirmed cases was 2,447 per day. 

Last week, Michigan recorded 28,072 new cases, a decline from 30,587 new cases the previous week— but physician Teena Chopra, a professor of infectious diseases at Wayne State, said "it’s a little too early to tell" if the downward trend will continue.

While the state’s prohibition on dining at restaurants may have helped the last few weeks, she said, "as physicians and health care workers, we’re gearing up for another surge after the holidays."

Millions of people will have traveled, attended gatherings or both by early January, Chopra said, "and those can add on. As you are well aware, COVID-19 is very, very unforgiving."

At the University of Michigan, professor and epidemiology chair Joseph Eisenberg took a more optimistic view of recent figures.

Eisenberg focuses on the date of the onset of symptoms, "and I’ve been seeing a downswing since mid-November," he said. "It’s definitely a good sign. The same goes for the deaths, which sort of picked up in early December. It looks like that’s starting to head down also."

He, too, is concerned about holidays, but "I saw no evidence of any kind of increase due to Thanksgiving at the same levels we’d seen previously."

Ideally, Eisenberg said, Christmas and New Year celebrations will also be less volatile than feared. "It’s just a question of what people are doing."

At the end of November, the state had established the weekly record of 50,892 cases.

State officials have said they expect the number of fatalities to increase during the holiday season and are urging residents to avoid social gatherings to stem the spread of infection.

During the week of Dec. 19, Michigan dropped from the 13-highest number of cases to the 15th-highest in the nation. The state continues to rank as the fifth-highest for the number of deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control's COVID data tracker.

Michigan ranks 24th in the nation for most hospitalizations and ninth for most patients in intensive care units, according to Becker's Hospital Review.

As of Tuesday, 3,136 adults were hospitalized statewide with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, including 731 in critical care and 426 on ventilators, with ICU beds at 78% capacity, according to state data. That's compared with about 3,650 COVID inpatients a month ago, including 500 in the ICU.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged residents not to travel for the holidays as case rates declined and vaccines began to roll out.

Whitmer has extended indoor dining restrictions through Jan. 15 while allowing reopening of casinos, bowling alleys, stadiums and permitting in-person learning at Michigan high schools as soon as Monday with restrictions. Capacity will be capped at 100 people for businesses, food and drink concessions must remain closed and social distancing must be observed.

“These past few weeks, Michiganders across the state stepped up and did their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, and because of our collective hard work, we are now able to begin the steps to carefully lift some of the protocols we have in place,” Whitmer said in a statement. “I am encouraged by the progress we have made since early November, and will continue to monitor the data closely during and after the holidays."

► More: Gov. Whitmer: More 'aggressive' reopening steps possible after Jan. 1

The number of deaths remains "deeply concerning," with about 100 per day, Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon said. Deaths are often a "lagging indicator" that decrease some weeks after cases decrease, he said. 

The Moderna vaccine uses the same technology as Pfizer-BioNTech's and showed similarly strong protection against COVID-19 but is easier to handle because it does not need to be kept in the deep freeze at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.

The vaccines will be rolled out in phases. The first priorities for vaccination in Michigan will be front-line healthcare workers and people living and working in long-term care facilities. 

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive, said the general public should prepare to receive the vaccine by late spring.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_