Michigan COVID-19 cases rise for fourth straight week
Michigan added 2,660 new COVID-19 cases and 47 deaths on Saturday, the fourth weekly case increase in a row.
The latest figures bring the total number of cases to 624,811 and deaths to 15,897 since the virus was first detected in March 2020, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. Of the deaths reported Saturday, 39 were identified during a vital records review.
This week, the state recorded 17,374 cases and 123 deaths from the virus. Last week, the state recorded 11,383 cases, nearly 6,000 fewer than this week, and 109 deaths from the virus.
In the first week of March, the state recorded 8,473 cases and 144 deaths, an increase from 7,662 cases and a decrease from 163 deaths the last week of February.
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 expands 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 Monday, eligibility will be opened to all residents age 50 years and older and people age 16 to 49 with certain medical conditions or disabilities.
All Michigan residents age 16 and older become eligible on April 5, the state said Friday. President Joe Biden had asked states to open eligibility to all adults by May 1.
The percentage of COVID-19 tests bringing positive results has been rising for four weeks and is now at 6.2%, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said.
The state has seen a 77% increase in cases since mid-February, mainly attributable to more than 300 outbreaks from youth sports. Michigan’s stats are reverting back to where the state stood in mid-January when the first variant case of B.1.1.7. was identified.
"Our progress with COVID-19 is fragile. While we're making great progress with vaccination efforts, what we are seeing now is very concerning data that shows we are going in the wrong direction," Khaldun said. "Cases are increasing in all age groups but the 10-19-year-old age group has seen the largest increase."
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday getting vaccinated is how the state will get the cases under control and "we will be able to celebrate our Independence Day together this year."
Whitmer's administration will allow crowds of up to 20% of capacity limits at outdoor stadiums and will impose new testing requirements for youth sports.
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 6, Michigan jumped from having the 16th highest number of cases in the nation to the 12th highest. The state also has the 20th highest death rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control's COVID data tracker.
Deaths have declined for 11 straight weeks and are a lagging indicator of cases and hospitalizations, state health officials say.
In Michigan, 4.9% of hospital beds are occupied by coronavirus patients, Khaldun said Friday.
Hospitalizations are up 9% since last week, the second consecutive week they have risen.
As of Friday, the state has 1,294 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, with 294 in intensive care units and 105 on ventilators.
Henry Ford Health System President and CEO Wright Lassiter III said on Thursday he's worried that cases are on the rise and as the weather warms up, he said it's not time to take our guard down.
"Last Monday to this Monday we saw a 27% increase in the number of in-patient cases in our hospitals," he said. "I'm hopeful it's a small bump and it doesn't end up being another significant surge, our third or fourth across the country."
New York, Georgia, New Jersey, Texas and Missouri have the highest per capita hospitalized patient numbers.
State health department officials remain cautious as new variants of COVID-19 spread through populated communities. The variants are identified through target testing and state officials expect there are cases of variants that have not been identified or recorded.
As of Friday, Michigan has the second-most recorded cases of the virus variant B.1.1.7. with 756 cases in 31 jurisdictions, although 380 cases are within the Michigan Department of Corrections. Florida has the most, with 882 cases of the variant.
The MDOC 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 prisons, 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. There are a total of two cases of the variant as of Friday.
"We know the variant is spreading in the community," Khaldun said. "I’m concerned about our current numbers. It’s imperative that we protect each other by wearing masks, social distancing... We could potentially be at the beginning of another surge in Michigan."
Vaccines rolled out in phases
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 Monday, 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.
The Macomb County Health Department was the first county to expand eligibility to medical conditions or disabilities age 16 or older and their caregivers on Saturday.
Whitmer on Thursday highlighted the state's largest single-site vaccination effort which is expected to administer more than 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
She touted the Ford Field COVID-19 federal mass vaccination clinic Thursday saying it's realistic that families and friends will be able to gather for the Fourth of July.
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, workers in food processing and jail and prison staff. Pre-K through 12th-grade teachers and childcare providers also are eligible for vaccinations.
The state is 29th in the nation for doses administered.
According to data on Michigan's vaccine website, more than 3.3 million doses have been administered out of more than 3.8 million doses shipped to Michigan.
As of Friday, about 26% of Michigan's population has at least one dose and 15% of residents are fully vaccinated, according to the state.
The virus is blamed for more than 538,000 deaths and 29 million confirmed infections in the U.S.
The number of outbreaks has increased by 9%, to 645 outbreaks, since last week.
New school outbreaks have increased since last week, with 58 reported Monday at education institutions including K-12 public and private schools, colleges and school administrative buildings.
"This is concerning. Outbreaks in this age group can have an impact on our children's education," Khaldun said. "The most important thing we all want is to have in-person learning."
Another 22 outbreaks were in daycare and childcare programs.
The state considers 556,697 people recovered from the virus as of Friday.