Michigan's COVID hospitalization tally increases to start 2022

Craig Mauger Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Lansing — The number of people hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan increased again Monday, a signal the state's latest downward trend has stopped, at least for now, amid a spike in new cases.

In its first data release of 2022, the state Department of Health and Human Services revealed 3,999 adults and children were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday, an 8.5% increase from the count seven days earlier. Meanwhile, the department reported 61,235 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 298 deaths over a five-day period, including totals from Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Over the last seven days, Michigan has tallied 87,093 new infections, which amounts to one for every 114 residents of the state. During the last week, the state average 12,441 new cases a day, a record amount and up 87% from the previous seven-day period.

The numbers came amid concerns about the omicron variant, which spreads more easily from person to person. But many experts also contend the new variant causes less severe illness than the delta variant that fueled the fall surge in cases.

The state is "on the very cusp of an omicron surge that may not peak until later this month," Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, said during a Monday morning appearance on CNN.

The health department tracked 504 individuals hospitalized and on ventilators with COVID-19 on Monday, down from 584 a week earlier.

The number of pediatric hospitalizations connected to COVID-19 is climbing. The state reported 96 children hospitalized with confirmed cases of the virus on Monday, up 74% from a week earlier.

Michigan's adult hospitalizations surged in November and December, peaking at 4,518 adults hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 cases on Dec. 13 — at that point, there were 48 children hospitalized with verified infections. For two weeks, the adult tally decreased before inching upward again after Christmas on Wednesday to 3,659 from 3,629 two days earlier.

Monday's report of 3,903 adults hospitalized with confirmed cases was the first new number since Dec. 29 because of the New Year's holiday.

Last Wednesday, the state health department reported 25,858 new infections over Tuesday and Wednesday, a daily average of 12,929, which was the highest average daily new case rate of the pandemic. The previous record of 9,779 cases per day came on Nov. 20, 2020.

Michigan identified its first case of the omicron variant in Kent County on Dec. 9 about a week after it first was identified in the United States on Dec. 1.

As of Monday, the state had tracked 289 confirmed omicron cases, up from 75 on Wednesday. About 69% of the omicron cases were in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne counties, according to the health department's data.

But experts say a greater number of people are likely infected because only a small percentage of samples of the virus are sequenced.

During an appearance Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser on COVID-19 for President Joe Biden, said the nation was "in the middle of a very severe surge and uptick in cases."

"One of the things that we hope for ... is that this thing will peak after a period of a few weeks and turn around," Fauci added. "We have seen that happen in South Africa, where they had a major surge, but, as quickly as the surge went up, it turned around."

There was "accumulating evidence" that omicron leads to less serious infection, he said.

On Monday, the nonprofit group COVID Act Now moved Michigan to its highest coronavirus risk category — "severe." The majority of the country's states are now in that category, according to the group that analyzes testing rates, infection data and other metrics.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Michigan has reported 1,568,573 confirmed cases and 27,286 deaths linked to the virus.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services 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 said last week. "Get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear multilayered, well-fitting masks and get tested before gatherings."

From Jan. 3, 2021, to Dec. 15, 2021, 85% of Michigan's COVID-19 cases and 88% of the hospitalizations tied to the virus have been individuals who were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, according to data Bagdasarian posted Sunday on Twitter.