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Another new record: Michigan averaging over 20,000 new COVID-19 cases daily

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

For the third time in 10 days, Michigan has set a new record for the highest daily average of new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Michigan on Friday added 40,692 cases over two days and 259 deaths from the virus, including cases from Thursday.

The additions bring the state totals to 1,636,611 confirmed cases and 27,822 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The state averaged 20,346 new cases per day over the two days. Of the latest deaths reported, 136 were identified during a vital records review, state health officials noted.

The new high mark was reported two days after the state set a new record of 13,673 new cases per day on Wednesday, up from 12,929 cases per day on Dec. 28 and 29.

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.

A record number of children, 110, are hospitalized, according to the state health department. The breaks records of 107 set on Wednesday and 96 on Monday.

On Friday, the state health department reported 4,412 adults were hospitalized with confirmed infections. That tally has been trending mostly upward since July. About 83% of the state's inpatient hospital beds are occupied.

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 88% of COVID patients are unvaccinated, 85% of COVID deaths are unvaccinated.

Beaumont Health, Michigan's largest hospital system, warned Thursday that it had reached a "breaking point" amid the surge, and a federal medical team is extending its 30-day commitment to its Dearborn location an additional 30 days. 

The number of the eight-hospital system's COVID-19 patients increased by about 40% over the past week to 750 patients. About 65% of those hospitalized in the 3,375-bed system are unvaccinated while about 8% have received a booster, according to hospital officials. 

More than 430 of Beaumont's 33,000 employees are out with COVID-19 symptoms. The health system, meanwhile, said it is asking its hospitals to reduce elective procedures, testing and outpatient imaging to focus more care on COVID, oncology, trauma and acute care patients.

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

The state, as of Tuesday, has confirmed 289 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 Tuesday, roughly 95% 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.

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."

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. In the last seven days, Michigan reported the 11th most cases.

Statewide positivity is 30%, an increase from 21% last week. 

Case rates are highest for 20-29-year-olds. 

Cases among pediatric populations have also increased 24% since last week. 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 data from Friday about 23.6% of hospital beds were filled with COVID-19 patients and there were an average of 2,889 emergency room visits related to COVID-19 every day in the state.

In October, unvaccinated people in the state had 4.3 times more likely of testing positive for the virus and 13 times more likely risk of dying. The risk of infection and death is lower for those who receive a booster dose.

About 63.8%, or 6.3 million, residents have received their first doses of a vaccine, as of Wednesday. So far, more than 181,000 children ages 5 to 11 in Michigan, or 22%, have received their first dose of the vaccine.

More than 2.3 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 1,284,015 people recovered from the virus as of Dec.29. 

Staff Writer Beth LeBlanc contributed.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_