Michigan Hits a Grim New Milestone, Records Highest Case Rate in the US. The state health department issued an advisory urging everyone ages 2 and older to wear masks indoors on the day Michigan’s fourth Coronavirus outbreak broke a record for the most cases in the pandemic.
“Today, we are at another crucial point,” Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel said Friday as she urged people to mask wear.
“We have a chance to turn the tide and these rising numbers around… Whether or not we do will depend on everyone in Michigan.”
Hertel advised people to wear masks whenever they are indoors with anyone who doesn’t live in their homes and urged businesses, schools, and other establishments to enforce mask requirements for all who enter its premises.
Michigan remains the nation’s worst hot spot for Coronavirus infections as pandemic trends grow increasingly dire.
Free Press analysis of federal data shows that 1 in 10 cases in the United States are now from Michigan, even though its population is only around 3% of the total.
With 589.3 cases per 100,000 people, Michigan has the highest seven-day case rate of 2021.
As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which is twice the number of cases in Ohio.
A seven-day average of 7,654 new cases was reported in Michigan on Friday, the highest daily average in the state’s history.
Positive tests also rose, with an average of 17% for the week of November 12 to 18.
Similarly, the death toll has risen. The virus has claimed an average of 66 Michiganders per day over the past week.
Hospital leaders said the strain is wearing them down.
“Many of us have had to curtail services, such as deferring surgeries and other important procedures and redeploy staff,” Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan, said.
“If you imagine hospital staff for the last year, we’ve been dealing with a lot of non-COVID care and increasing amounts of COVID during the surges. It’s almost like we’re running a marathon and the finish line keeps pushing back.”
State data show that 3,474 Michiganders, meaning 62% more than last week, have been hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 cases since November 1.
Almost all COVID-19 patients who are sickest are unvaccinated, Elmouchi said.
“We are seeing healthy young people in our hospitals, very sick on ventilators and even dying with COVID. The vaccines absolutely work and we absolutely, without a doubt, would recommend everyone to reconsider if you haven’t been vaccinated.
“And if you haven’t been boosted, and you’re eligible, by all means, please get a boost.”
All U.S. adults now qualify for COVID-19 vaccination boosters because of evidence of waning immunity.
Vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna that were last administered to recipients six months ago or Johnson & Johnson vaccines given at least two months ago are eligible now to take a booster shot.
The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, said it’s difficult to predict how long the surge will last or if it will get worsen.
“We’re clearly dealing with a variant that is more transmissible and it’s (the) holiday season, (with) people gathering indoors, and that can lead to increased transmission.
“It really depends on people’s behavior. I think if we can change behavior, and if we can get people to start masking and increase those vaccination rates, we have hope of this ending soon. If the behavior doesn’t change, I think we’re in for a very rough winter season.”
Hertel said that state health leaders opted for recommendations, rather than mandating masks, because “we’ve all been armed with the information that we think we need to have in order to keep people safe.
“So at this point, we feel that it is most prudent to make sure that people are aware of how serious this COVID surge is right now, and give them the ability and information to take steps to protect themselves and others through a public health advisory.”
The state has lifted all pandemic restrictions since the end of June when Hertel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted the mask requirement.
In the new strategy, emphasis has been put on the need to take COVID-19 vaccines, wear masks, and take other steps to reduce the risk of transmission.
In addition, local health departments and school districts have been urged to set their own mask requirements.
Recent months have seen a stagnation in Michigan’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, despite ad campaigns and incentives, such as a statewide lottery.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 54.2% of the population of California has been vaccinated. Meanwhile, in comparison, the overall vaccination rate in the U.S. is 58.9%.
Michigan Association for Local Public Health president Nicholas Derusha said on Friday that the wider availability of COVID-19 vaccines and adequate treatments change the public health response.
“It is a confusing time and these rates are very concerning,” Derusha said in a statement. “Local health leaders are watching the numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths very carefully as we move into the winter holiday season.
“However… the key difference between this year and last year is the growing list of tools we have to prevent and treat COVID-19. Anyone over age 5 is eligible for a free vaccine, and we strongly encourage it. Booster shots will soon be readily available for all adults, and we strongly encourage getting one of those as well. There is a growing toolbox of therapeutics to treat and manage COVID-19 cases.
“In short, people this year are in a much better position to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones. So, the growing trend around Michigan sees local health officers moving from mandates to advisories.”
Hertel didn’t say on Friday if a new mask mandate for K-12 schools or statewide might be triggered by a threshold of Coronavirus cases or hospitalizations.
During Ecorse High School’s first day in Ecorse on September 7, 2021, a mask-use sign was posted at the entrance as students enter the school.
“Unfortunately, I can’t predict the future,” she said. “And what we’ve all learned is that we really can’t predict the future when it comes to COVID-19.
“We’ll continue to watch case rates and other indicators very closely and make determinations as we see what transpires across the state. However, it is my most sincere hope that Michiganders will take this message very seriously going into the holidays as they start meeting with their close friends and families and the people that they love and do everything that they can to protect themselves and the people that they are around.”
In Derusha’s opinion, protecting yourself and others from the virus can be accomplished using “the same common-sense steps” that have always been advocated.
“If you plan to be indoors in a crowded place for a significant length of time, use a mask,” he said. “Wash your hands frequently. If you’re not feeling well, stay home. If you believe you have COVID-19, get tested immediately and seek treatment early. If you have not been vaccinated, consult your health professional about whether you should. If you are eligible for a booster, get one.”