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Michigan surpasses 13,000 deaths from COVID-19

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Michigan surpassed 13,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus Thursday, as the state begins widely distributing vaccines to the most vulnerable.

The state on Thursday added 4,015 new cases of the coronavirus and 176 deaths.

The latest figures bring the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Michigan to 512,751 and deaths to 13,094 since the virus was first detected in March, according to tracking by the state Department of Health and Human Services. The deaths announced Thursday include 138 deaths identified during a delayed records review, the state said.

An electronic billboard in downtown Lansing encourages residents to "stay home" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.

Michigan added 15,124 cases and 496 deaths from the virus so far this week. 

The state will open up vaccination opportunities to all Michigan residents over the age of 65 and to front-line workers and teachers beginning Monday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday. 

The new phase will allow for the 65 and older age group to receive a vaccine as well as front-line workers such as first responders, front-line state and federal workers and jail and prison staff. Pre-K through 12th-grade teachers and childcare providers also will be eligible for vaccinations. 

Vaccines continue to be distributed to health care workers and nursing home residents. Supplies are limited and are running out within seven days of Michigan receiving them, and "that is a good thing," Whitmer said.

“I urge all seniors to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible and that all Michiganders to make a plan to get vaccinated when it becomes available to you," she said. "The quicker we distribute the vaccine, the quicker we can reduce the strain on our healthcare system and defeat this virus once and for all."

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 Jan. 2, Michigan dropped from the 19-highest number of cases to the 20th-highest in the nation. The state ranks eighth-highest for the number of deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control's COVID data tracker.

Michigan ranks 32th in the nation for most hospitalizations and 12th for most patients in intensive care units, according to Becker's Hospital Review.

In Michigan, 12.6% of hospital beds are occupied by coronavirus patients, a decrease from 19%, health officials said.

As of Wednesday, 2,637 adults were hospitalized statewide with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, including 489 in critical care and 304 on ventilators, with ICU beds at 74% capacity, according to state data.

While Nevada, Alabama, California, and Georgia 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.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive, said Wednesday she's concerned to see a slowing of progress. Cases are plateauing over the past week after declining for 46 days. Still, the case rates are more than twice the rate from the beginning of October, she said.

The state's positivity rate is at 9.6%, an increase from 8.2% on Dec. 27. Khaldun said the numbers are concerning as testing has declined in the state and there could still be a surge from holiday travel. A positivity rate above 3% is concerning to public health officials.

Active cases remain most prevalent in Wayne County, with 59,849 cases and additional 28,180 cases in Detroit. Oakland County has 63,751 cases, and Macomb has 51,199.

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

A healthcare worker receives a second Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine shot at Beaumont Health in Southfield, Mich., Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021.

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.

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

"We've set a goal to have 70% of Michigan residents over the age of 16 to be vaccinated as quickly as possible," Khaldun said Wednesday.

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

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 361,000 deaths and 21 million confirmed infections in the United States.

Officials are tracking at least 943 active outbreaks as of Dec. 30, a decline from 1,040 outbreaks the week prior. Top categories for outbreaks continue to be long-term care facilities, child daycare, including nursing homes as well as manufacturing and construction sites, retail and schools.

The state recorded three additional school outbreaks Monday, adding to a list of 102 school outbreaks.

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

Twitter: @SarahRahal_