20 new virus cases Sunday, including 'young person,' bring state total to 53

Karen Bouffard and Christine MacDonald

The state announced 20  news cases Sunday of COVID-19 in Michigan, including a young person, bringing the total to 53 people infected with the new coronavirus.

The new confirmed cases add to the 12 announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier Sunday, bringing the total for the state to 53. The uptick in cases comes as several local hospitals announced they are now treating patients with the novel coronavirus. 

"The number is growing every day," Whitmer said Sunday. We know that there are many people who have not yet been tested and may be sick."

The group of new cases confirmed on Sunday included a "young person," Whitmer said before the state released news that eight more people had been identified as testing presumed positive. The addition of the young person appeared to be the first case involving someone that young amid a largely middle-age group affected that are either isolated at home or in a hospital.

Information was not yet made public on the person's age, gender or where they live, but the infection underscored the need for school closures, Whitmer said.

The cases include:

•Washtenaw County, three adult males, all with a history of international travel.

•Detroit, one an adult female with unknown travel history; another, an adult female with contact with a person with COVID-19.

•Oakland County, adult female with contact with a person with COVID-19; a male child with contact with a person with COVID-19; an adult male with unknown travel and contact history; an adult male with no history of travel or contacts; and an adult male with international travel history.

•Macomb County, adult female with unknown travel history; two adult males with no travel or contact reported.

•Kent County, adult male with unknown travel history and unknown contact history.

•Wayne County, adult male with unknown travel and contact history.

•Ottawa County, adult female with unknown travel and contact history.•Oakland County, adult male with international travel history.•Detroit, adult female with no history of travel or contacts.

•Clair County, adult female with contact with a person with COVID-19.•Wayne County, adult male with no travel or contact reported.

•Kent County, adult male with history of domestic travel.

The push to limit the spread of the virus prompted the governor to order Thursday, starting Monday, all schools in Michigan — public, private and boarding — be closed until at least April 5.  

"I know that there is a lot of stress, I know that people are worried, and wondering if it was the right thing closing the school," Whitmer said Sunday evening.

"This group of 12 that came back positive today, there was a younger person in that group, so I know that it was the right thing closing our schools."

Test specimens will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation testing, state health officials have said.

The cases have increased as Michigan continues to struggle with a shortage of supplies to test people for the coronavirus. The state is able to test 115 people per day for COVID-19, said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has said that four commercial laboratories would start testing in the state to increase the number of people who can be tested. The laboratories are LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics, Mayo and ARUP, Khaldun said Thursday.

Michigan's cases appear to have some commonalities, with all but a few involving recent international or domestic travel.

Whitmer on Sunday also announced that the Michigan Gaming Control Board was working with the state's casinos on a plan to temporarily close them down to limit large gatherings, though she didn't say when that would happen. 

"We know that’s where masses of people congregate," Whitmer said of casinos. "That’s where a lot of close people congregate." 

The governor has already limited public gatherings in Michigan to no more than 250 people. Public health officials in Oakland County — where more cases have been confirmed than anywhere in the state — ordered all bars, restaurants and entertainment venues to reduce their capacity by 50%. 

Earlier Sunday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel vowed to crack down on businesses that violate crowd-size restrictions, particularly for St. Patrick's Day on Tuesday.

Nessel said her office would coordinate the prosecution of violations of that order, which is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and or a $500 fine. Violations could also result in the loss of a business's liquor license. 

"No one wants a shutdown of the food and beverage industry but also no one wants the coronavirus right?" Nessel said. "That’s why we are taking these important measures."

"We are very hopeful they are going to do the right thing."

Others in the medical field are calling for stricter regulations relating to restaurants and bars, including Detroit Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate. He tweeted Sunday that restaurants should be restricted to carry-out only.

"If we’re serious about #socialdistancing: Local officials should ban ALL eat-in options at restaurants, eateries and bars. All orders for food requiring preparation should be placed by phone or online, and there should be no waiting allowed inside," El-Sayed tweeted. 

The Michigan Supreme Court also authorized trial courts to take emergency measures to prevent the spread of the disease in courtrooms,. 

“This order provides authority and direction for the courts of Michigan to take every measure necessary to protect the public,” said Chief Justice Bridget McCormack. “The message is simple: Emergency action to protect the public shall take precedence over normal operating procedures.”


Twitter: @kbouffardDN