Michigan still leads nation in COVID-19 cases but hospitalizations are falling

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Michigan continues to lead the nation in new COVID-19 cases, but new infections and hospitalizations have fallen sharply in the last two weeks following the state's third surge that began in late March.

Michigan on Tuesday added 2,527 new cases and 126 deaths from COVID-19, surpassing 850,000 confirmed cases, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The latest figures bring the state's total number of cases to 851,947 and deaths to 17,897 since the virus was first detected in March 2020.

The state continues to lead the nation in new cases per capita for the fifth straight week despite nearly two-fifths of its residents being fully vaccinated. However, cases and hospitalizations are trending downward.

As of Monday, 2,810 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 769 in an intensive care unit and 513 on ventilators. That's a 39% drop from April 19 when hospitalizations peaked with 4,158 inpatients.

Nurse Susan Blair administers the Pfizer vaccine to Lisa Hosler, 47, of Harrison Township at the Beaumont Hospital walk-in clinic.

About 18% of hospital beds are filled with COVID-19 patients, a 1% decrease from last week.

Twenty-one hospitals in Michigan are at 90% or more capacity, as of Monday. Beaumont Hospital in Wayne and Henry Ford Macomb Hospital are at full capacity, according to the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

Sparrow Health System hit a high point of hospitalizations on April 13, with 142 COVID-19 patients at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing and 150 patients system-wide, spokesman John Foren said. By Tuesday, the system was down to 79 COVID-19 patients, including 72 patients at the Lansing hospital, he said.

Last week, Michigan added 25,065 new cases and 454 deaths. Cases are decreasing but deaths are rising. Deaths are a lagging indicator of cases and hospitalizations.

During the previous week of April 18-24, Michigan added 34,013 new cases and 449 deaths. During April 11-17, the state added 47,284 cases and 342 deaths.

The weekly record of 50,892 cases was set in the week of Nov. 15-21. The second highest weekly total was 47,316 the week of Nov. 22-28.

The weekly record of 808 deaths was recorded in mid-December.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the "MI Vacc to Normal" plan Thursday to tie the future of COVID-19 restrictions to the percentage of residents who have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Nearly half of the state's residents over age 16 have received at least one dose of vaccine. The governor's plan includes four steps to gradually remove restrictions, beginning two weeks after 55% of adults are vaccinated. The final step, two weeks after 5.7 million residents, or 70% of the adult population, receive their first dose the state will lift its gathering and face mask orders, she said.

"While the daily case count, test positivity are still not where we want them to be, we’re headed in the right direction,” Whitmer said.

Michigan's latest data

The state continues to lead the nation at 251 cases per 100,000 people — a decrease from 330 cases per capita last week and a high of 519 cases per capita earlier in April — outpacing Colorado at 200 cases per 100,000 people and Minnesota at 194 cases per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The seven-day average percentage of COVID-19 tests bringing positive results is 11%.

Southwest Michigan, the Grand Rapids area and the Upper Peninsula are experiencing the fastest growth in COVID-19 cases. Four of the state's eight regions continue to have 30% or more of ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Those aged 10-19 and 20-29 have the highest case rates in the state, followed by 20-29, then 30-39.

From January to April, there have been 291 outbreaks from youth sports resulting in 1,217 infections, with the most clusters from basketball, hockey and wrestling.

► More: Rare COVID-19 complication is putting kids in Michigan's ICUs

During the week of April 24, Michigan led the nation in percent positivity, case rates and hospitalizations.

The state also has the fifth-highest death rate in the U.S., according to the CDC's COVID data tracker.

About five states are seeing an increase in cases and 12 states are seeing weekly increases in hospitalizations. Michigan, Maryland, New Jersey and the city of Washington, D.C., have the highest per-capita hospitalized patient numbers.

State health department officials remain cautious as new variants of COVID-19 spread. 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 Thursday, Michigan has the second-highest number of cases of the variant B.1.1.7 with 5,616 cases in 80 jurisdictions.

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. There are 517 cases of the variant within the Michigan Department of Corrections.

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 26 cases of the variant.

The first case of the P.1 variant from Brazil was identified in a Bay County resident. There are now66 confirmed cases of P.1.

There are also 231 confirmed cases of B.1.427 and B.1.429, two variants formed in California.

On Friday, the state identified the first case of B.1.617 in Clinton County. The variant was initially detected in India in October.

Wayne County has the largest spread of the B.1.1.7 variant with more than 556 cases including 157 in Detroit. Wayne, Washtenaw, Macomb and Genesee counties have five of six variants. Clinton County has all the reported variants. 

Vaccines available for all 16-plus

As of Monday, the state has administered 7 million of 9.3 million doses distributed. Half of the state's adults have had at least one dose of vaccine and 39% are fully vaccinated. 

The state's fully vaccinated population includes 67% of all seniors 65 years and older, 45% of people aged 50 to 64, 29% of people age 40 to 49, and 26% of people age 30 to 39, according to the state's data tracker.

The state ranks ninth in the nation for the number of people who are fully vaccinated; however, the number of vaccinations administered in Michigan in the last week has dropped significantly, and supply has outpaced demand for the vaccines, according to the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.

“The MI Vacc to Normal challenge outlines steps we can take to emerge from this pandemic as we hit our vaccination targets together,” Whitmer said. “On our path to vaccinating 70% of Michiganders 16 and up, we can take steps to gradually get back to normal while keeping people safe. 

"If you haven’t already, I encourage you to rise to the challenge and be a part of the solution, so we can continue our economic recovery and have the summer we all crave.” 

In Detroit, vaccination rates lag as about 31% of residents have received one dose, according to the city's dashboard. That's compared to 55% of residents in outer-Wayne County, 59% in Oakland County, 49% in Macomb County and 59% in Washtenaw County.

To ramp up vaccinations Detroit is offering "good neighbor" incentives and walk-up vaccination clinics at the TCF Center, Farewell Recreational Center, Northwest Activities Center, and the Samaritan Center. No appointment is needed for walk-ups.

The virus is blamed for more than 577,000 deaths and 32 million confirmed infections in the U.S.

The state is tracking 1,277 active outbreaks including 73 new school outbreaks since last week at education institutions including K-12 public and private schools.

Another 26 outbreaks were in long-term care facilities, 28 outbreaks were in day care and child care programs, 26 in manufacturing, 22 in restaurant and retail.

The state considers 660,124 people recovered from the virus as of Friday.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_