Wayne County health officials urge masking up in indoor public spaces

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Wayne County health officials on Friday urged residents to wear masks in public indoor spaces to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus amid rising variant cases.

The county, excluding Detroit, has experienced a 60% increase in COVID cases in the last two weeks, the health department said in a statement.

At least 17 cases of the delta variant have been reported by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in the county, which has a 5.2% positivity rate, according to the release.

While hospital bed capacities remain at pre-pandemic normal levels, county officials said they are monitoring cases, positivity rates and available hospital capacity to decide whether to issue preventative health measures.

Wayne County health officials on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 urged residents to wear masks in public indoor spaces to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus amid rising variant cases.

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“We cannot afford to let our guard down against COVID,” said Wayne County Executive Warren Evans. “We don’t have community protection against the virus because too many residents remain unvaccinated. With the emergence of the highly-contagious Delta variant, wearing masks indoors again is necessary to keep people safe, especially children and individuals who are medically unable to get vaccinated.”

Almost 64% of Michigan residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, compared to about 66% in Wayne County and about 40% in the city of Detroit.

The recommendation came on the same day state authorities announced Michigan added 6,567 cases and 30 deaths from the virus this week, marking the fifth straight increase in weekly case totals.

Statewide positivity has increased to 5.8% and has been increasing for the last five weeks — up from 4.1% last week.

Nearly half of Michigan residents live in counties where the federal government urges those fully vaccinated to wear masks in public indoor settings because transmission is “high” or “substantial.”

Michigan on Wednesday joined nearly a third of other states listed as having "substantial" community transmission for COVID-19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

That means 50-99.99 total new cases per 100,000 people, a positivity rate of between 8% to 9.99%, or both, in the past seven days.

Meanwhile, state health department officials remain cautious as new virus variants spread. There are now 233 cases in the state of the delta variant. Delta cases have doubled in the last four weeks.

The rising cases prompted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration this week to endorse a recommendation for universal masking in K-12 school buildings; autoworkers and staff at Detroit Three plants in the U.S. to start wearing masks again beginning Wednesday; and Eastern Michigan University, Wayne State University, Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and other colleges to announce mask mandates.

The Wayne County Health Department also recommends residents continue social distancing and personal hygiene measures such as hand-washing and staying home when feeling sick, to reduce virus transmission. 

“Masks and social distancing will help slow COVID, but the best long-term strategy to ensure personal and community protection remains vaccination,” Evans said. “The vaccines are safe and effective, especially against cases that lead to hospitalization and death. They are also available from Wayne County and most major pharmacies at no cost. Nothing is more important than your health, so I encourage residents to get vaccinated today.”

County residents can call 1-866-610-3885 or schedule a vaccine appointment. Vaccines are available to residents 12 and older. No-cost rides and home-bound vaccination appointments are also available for residents with mobility challenges.

For more information, go to the county website.