Michigan health officials to keep quarantine guidelines, review CDC new guidance

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday announced it plans to keep the state's current COVID-19 quarantine and isolation guidelines, including for K-12 students, even as U.S. health officials cut some restrictions.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance that called for asymptomatic Americans who catch the coronavirus to isolate for five instead of 10 days, and similarly shortened the time that close contacts need to quarantine.

In a statement late Wednesday, state health officials said they would "review the supporting evidence behind this guidance, while awaiting additional information from the CDC, specifically for special populations and in high-risk settings."

Melia Frame prepares a gurney to transport a COVID-19 patient on the eighth floor on the South Tower at Beaumont Hospital Dearborn on Nov. 9. Michigan saw its highest daily confirmed case rate Wednesday since the pandemic began, health officials reported.

Meanwhile, the health department "will retain current quarantine and isolation guidelines including guidelines for K-12 and congregate care settings," according to the release. "MDHHS will update Michigan’s guidance when additional information becomes available from the CDC."

The state website recommends isolation lasting 10 days and quarantining up to 14.

The health department announcement Wednesday also cited the state's rising virus cases. Michigan on Wednesday recorded its highest daily confirmed case rate since the pandemic began, adding 25,858 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.

"Michigan continues to experience high rates of transmission and has several tools to further prevent the spread of COVID-19," the health department said. "The delta variant has already fueled the current surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations. The high transmissibility of the omicron variant underscores the importance of Michiganders practicing the COVID mitigation practices that are known to reduce spread and risk."

State health officials recommend vaccination, wearing masks covering the mouth and nose, social distancing, COVID-19 testing and staying home when they are feeling ill.

"More than 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and older have received their first dose of the safe and effective COVID-19, and we thank them for getting vaccinated to protect themselves and others, but we have further progress to make," officials said Wednesday night. "As more individuals are vaccinated, it is less likely that the virus will circulate and mutate, avoiding the development of more transmissible and vaccine-resistant variants in the future."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said its guidance was in keeping with growing evidence that people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.

The decision also was driven by a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, propelled by the omicron variant.

Early research suggests omicron may cause milder illnesses than earlier versions of the coronavirus. But the sheer number of people becoming infected — and therefore having to isolate or quarantine — threatens to crush the ability of hospitals, airlines and other businesses to stay open, experts say.

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.

More than a year after the vaccine was rolled out, new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to their highest level on record at over 265,000 per day on average.

The Associated Press contributed.