Michigan surpasses 600,000 cases of COVID-19

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Michigan surpassed 600,000 cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, as state officials urged residents to double down on masking and social distancing while vaccination efforts are underway.

The state added 2,316 cases and eight deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 601,284 and deaths to 15,707 since the virus was first detected in March 2020, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. 

Hand sanitizer dispensers are throughout the hallways at De La Salle Collegiate High School in Warren, Mich. on Dec. 17, 2020.   The school has invested in thermal cameras and had several coronavirus protocols while the school was open this fall.

Last week, the state recorded 8,473 cases and 144 deaths, an increase from 7,662 cases and a decrease from 163 deaths the week prior.

At the end of November, the state established the weekly record of 50,892 cases. The weekly record of 808 deaths was recorded in mid-December.

The latest numbers come as Michigan on Monday expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccines to residents 50 years and older who have pre-existing conditions or disabilities that put them at greater risk of suffering severe virus symptoms. 

On March 22, eligibility will be opened to all of those age 50 years and older.

Data on hospitalizations, testing and new cases have increased in the past two weeks after the state appeared to be moving past a second wave that hit in late November. The percentage of COVID-19 tests bringing positive results rose to 4.1% this week from 3.4% three weeks ago, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said Wednesday.

"We are starting to see a slight reversal in the progress we've made," she said. "We need to double down as we continue to make progress in vaccinating 2.9 million residents."

► More: Whitmer on anniversary of 1st COVID cases: 'We'll beat this damn virus'

One region, the Upper Peninsula, is below 3% and all of the state's 83 counties have a positivity rate below 10%, according to the state.

During the week of March 2, Michigan continues to rank 16th highest number of cases in the nation, and the 21st highest death rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control's COVID data tracker.

Michigan ranks 36th in the nation for most hospitalizations and 15th for most patients in intensive care units, according to Becker's Hospital Review.

In Michigan, 4% of hospital beds are occupied by coronavirus patients.

Hospitalizations are up 5% since last week, the first increase since December.

As of Wednesday, the state has 929 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, with 220 in intensive care units and 102 on ventilators. 

New York, Georgia, New Jersey, Texas and Missouri have the highest per capita hospitalized patient numbers.

As of Tuesday, Michigan has the second-most cases of the virus variant B.1.1.7. with 563 cases in 31 jurisdictions — 300 cases are within the Michigan Department of Corrections. Florida has the most, 642 cases of the variant.

Of the variants, 358 are within the Michigan Department of Corrections. The outbreak started at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia and has spread to 20 employees at the facility, the state said.

The first case of the variant was identified in January in a University of Michigan student who had traveled from the United Kingdom. The variant has spread significantly in Washtenaw and Wayne counties. An outbreak of 90 cases at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia County appears to be the largest cluster of the variant and has spread to two other Michigan jails, corrections officials said.

The first case of the South African variant B.1.351 was confirmed by the state Bureau of Laboratories in a boy living in Jackson County Monday. The state is investigating to figure out the close contacts of the child and whether he has spread the variant.

"We are a year into fighting this virus, but we are not yet done,” Khaldun said on Wednesday. "We are identifying more and more cases of the variants and if these new variants become more prevalent, we risk a rise in cases and deaths."

Vaccines rolled out in phases

Preliminary COVID-19 vaccination timeline from the state health department.

As vaccines continue to be rolled out in phases, the state said it remains committed to having 50,000 shots administered per day as supplies increase, with a goal to get 70% of the population ages 16 and older, about 5.6 million people, vaccinated "as soon as possible." 

People over the age of 50, regardless of health condition, are eligible to begin receiving the vaccine starting March 22, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The state also will open eligibility, starting Monday, to caregiver families and guardians caring for children with special health needs.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer easing some COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, nursing homes and other gatherings, including doubling capacity limits at restaurants from 25% to 50%.

In addition, the new order will extend the curfew for Michigan restaurants from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. and soften its restrictions on retailers, gyms, some events and residential gatherings. It will also allow family members who test negative for COVID-19 to visit relatives in nursing homes, Whitmer said.

The current phase allows for the 65 and older age group to receive a dose of vaccine as well as front-line workers such as first responders, some state and federal workers and jail and prison staff. Pre-K through 12th-grade teachers and childcare providers also are eligible for vaccinations. Workers in food processing, an estimated 79,000 Michigan residents are eligible to be vaccinated as of Monday.

According to data on Michigan's vaccine website, more than 2.7 million doses have been administered out of more than 3.4 million doses shipped to Michigan.

As of Monday, about 21.2% of Michigan's population has at least one dose and 12% of residents are fully vaccinated, according to the state.

The virus is blamed for more than 527,000 deaths and 29 million confirmed infections in the U.S.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_