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Michigan surpasses 500,000 COVID-19 cases

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Michigan surpassed half a million confirmed cases of the coronavirus Monday as vaccines continue to be distributed to the most vulnerable residents.

The state confirmed 4,992 new cases of the coronavirus and 80 deaths linked to COVID-19 Monday, including cases from Sunday. The state averaged 2,496 new cases over the two-day period.

The latest figures bring the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Michigan to 502,119 and deaths to 12,678 since the virus was first detected in March, according to tracking by the state Department of Health and Human Services. 

Employees enter the plant's south employee entrance during a shift change at the FCA Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Warren, Mich. on Nov. 9, 2020.

The state recorded 569 deaths last week, on par with 568 deaths the previous week and a decline from 799 deaths from the week of Dec. 14. The weekly record of 808 deaths was recorded in mid-December .

The state recorded 19,858 new cases last week, an increase from 18,417 recorded the previous week. That's compared to 30,587 cases three weeks ago. At the end of November, the state established the weekly record of 50,892 cases.

During the first two weeks of distribution, more than 71,000 people in the state have received a vaccine and nearly 500 clinics are scheduled for distribution in the upcoming weeks, said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a statement Monday saying, “There is hope on the horizon" as vaccines continue to be distributed to health care workers and nursing home residents.

"We must remember that it will take some time for the vaccine to be widely available to all Michiganders, and until then, we must continue to do our part to keep ourselves and our fellow Michiganders safe. That means masking up, practicing safe social distancing, and avoiding indoor gatherings where the virus can easily spread from person to person,” she said.

Last week, Whitmer signed a relief plan that she said “will provide families and businesses the support they need to stay afloat as we continue working to distribute the safe and effective vaccine and eradicate COVID-19 once and for all.” 

She continues to urge leaders in Washington to pass a relief bill that includes federal funding for the states to fund police and fire, emergency responders, Medicaid and higher education.

“These services could face cuts without help from the federal government. I will continue holding our leaders in Washington accountable,” she said.

The latest data

During the week of Dec. 26, Michigan dropped from the 15-highest number of cases to the 19th-highest in the nation. The state ranks seventh-highest for the number of deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control's COVID data tracker.

Michigan ranks 25th in the nation for most hospitalizations and ninth for most patients in intensive care units, according to Becker's Hospital Review.

As of Wednesday, 2,732 adults were hospitalized statewide with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, including 629 in critical care and 368 on ventilators, with ICU beds at 75% capacity, according to state data. That's a 24% decrease in total hospitalizations from three weeks ago.

While Nevada, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Alabama, and Delaware have the highest rates of hospitalizations, the Midwest states including Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan are showing a slow continuous decline, according to the state's data.

Khaldun said last week that she remains cautiously optimistic as the state's positivity rates have declined from 12% to 8.4%. The percentage has been declining for nearly 40 days but is still four times the rate from the beginning of September. A positivity rate above 3% is concerning to public health officials.

Two areas of the state, Saginaw and Jackson Counties have a 10% positivity rate, the highest case rate in the state, Khaldun said.

Active cases remain most prevalent in Wayne County, with 58,273 cases and additional 27,723 cases in Detroit. Oakland County has 62,094 cases, and Macomb has 50,124.

The state's case tracker also noted Genesse, Ingham, Kalamazoo, Kent, Muskegon, Ottawa and Washtenaw counties have high case rates.

"What we are seeing in the data, it is not a cause to celebrate... that progress is fragile," Khaldun said. "It only takes one gathering to spread through multiple households and close contacts."

Vaccines rolled out in phases

Boxes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Miss., Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020.

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

Vaccine distribution began at the end of December for skilled nursing home residents and staff. The state health department has also partnered with Walgreen and CVS Pharmacies to widely distribute the virus when it's available.

Khaldun said the general public should prepare to receive the vaccine by late spring.

► More: How Michigan residents will find out when to get COVID-19 vaccine

"If we get more vaccines, we are going to be getting it into people's arms as quickly as we can," Khaldun said. "We do expect our case numbers and deaths to come down as the vaccine is distributed to the most vulnerable, those in healthcare facilities."

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.

The virus is blamed for more than 351,000 deaths and 20 million confirmed infections in the United States.

The state considers 363,611 people recovered from the virus as of Wednesday.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_