Michigan sets record for highest daily COVID-19 case count since start of pandemic

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Michigan on Wednesday recorded its highest daily confirmed case rate for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, adding 25,858 cases over two days and 338 deaths from the virus. 

The totals, which include cases recorded Tuesday, averaged 12,929 new cases per day over the two days. That surpasses the state's previous high of 9,779 cases per day reached on Nov. 20, 2020

The additions bring the state totals to 1,507,338 confirmed cases and 26,988 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Of the latest deaths reported, 232 were identified during a vital records review, state health officials noted.

Michigan's top health officials have described the state's COVID-19 situation as "critical," and are urging vaccinations and boosters and masking amid a fourth surge of the virus that's bringing record levels of hospitalizations.

On Monday, the state health department reported 3,797 adults were hospitalized with confirmed virus infections, as were 55 children. That tally has been trending upward since July but lessened slightly late this month.

On Dec. 13, the state health department reported 4,518 adults were hospitalized with confirmed virus infections, the highest number during the pandemic so far.

During the surge in the winter of 2020, the number of adults hospitalized with confirmed infections peaked at 3,884 on Dec. 1. During the surge in the spring of 2021, the count was above 4,000 for only a handful of days. 

Based on recent data from most Michigan health systems, Michigan's Health and Hospital Association found that three in four COVID patients are unvaccinated (76%), 87% of COVID ICU patients are unvaccinated and 88% of COVID ventilator patients are unvaccinated.

Michigan earlier this month identified its first case of the highly contagious omicron variant in Kent County after it first was identified in the U.S. on Dec. 1.

The World Health Organization designated it a new “variant of concern,” stemming from South Africa and naming it “omicron” after a letter in the Greek alphabet.

The state, as of Tuesday, has confirmed 54 cases of omicron by genetic sequencing at the Michigan Bureau of Laboratories in Lansing. But experts say that a greater number of people are likely infected because only a small percentage of samples of the virus are sequenced. As of Dec. 25, roughly 59% of cases of COVID-19 in the country are caused by the omicron variant, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“As Omicron becomes the dominant COVID-19 variant in the United States, we all have to step up this holiday season to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Dec. 21. "If you still have not gotten vaccinated yet, know that it is not a matter of if you will get sick but of when."

MDHHS issued an advisory in November recommending people wear masks at indoor gatherings regardless of their vaccination status. It remains in effect until further notice.

"We expect Michigan’s case rate to rise as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly. You can help slow this spread," Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian tweeted on Tuesday. "Get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear multilayered, well-fitting masks and get tested before gatherings."

The state also has encouraged businesses to impose policies to ensure that all people entering, including employees, wear masks and advised individuals who are not fully vaccinated or who are immunocompromised to avoid large crowds or gatherings.

On Nov. 15, 2020, Whitmer announced her administration's "pause to save lives," bringing wide-ranging restrictions limiting gatherings at high schools, colleges and restaurants to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Those restrictions ended in June.

The uptick in cases and deaths has not resulted in any new mandates at the state level.

Michigan's latest data

Michigan remains at a high transmission rate and the state's percent of tests returning positive has increased. Last week, Michigan reported the most cases in the country over the prior week and it had the second-highest number of pediatric patients hospitalized.

There have been 196 cases of a rare inflammatory condition formed in children from the COVID-19 virus where multiple organ systems become inflamed or dysfunctional. Of the cases, 138 were admitted to the intensive care units and there have been five deaths.

Based on the state's most recent data from last week, about 23% of hospital beds were filled with COVID-19 patients and there were an average of 2,012 emergency room visits related to COVID-19 every day in the state.

About 63%, or 6.2 million, residents have received their first doses of a vaccine, as of Tuesday. So far, more than 164,000 children ages 5 to 11 in Michigan, or 20%, have received their first dose of the vaccine.

More than 2.1 million booster doses of the vaccine have been administered in Michigan. 

Approximately 2% of those fully vaccinated have been reported with a breakthrough infection, according to the state health department.

The state considered 1,201,233 million people recovered from the virus as of Friday.