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Michigan surpasses 300K COVID-19 cases, sets another weekly record


The Detroit News

Correction: This story initially mistated the number of Michigan COVID-19 deaths.

Michigan added 8,478 new virus cases and 101 deaths Saturday as the state surpassed 300,000 COVID-19 cases.

The latest additions bring the state's total of confirmed cases to 302,705 and deaths to 8,478 since the virus was first detected in Michigan in March, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Michigan finished the week with 50,892 cases, the sixth consecutive record week for confirmed infections, surpassing last week's total of 44,019 new cases.

The deaths announced Saturday included 59 identified during a vital records review.

The state set a new record for daily COVID-19 cases with 9,779 cases reported Friday, one week from its last record.

In the past week, Michigan has ranked sixth nationally for the highest number of cases and fifth for most deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced wide-ranging new restrictions Sunday night to combat what she described as the "worst moment" yet in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services ordered a temporary pause on in-person learning for high schools and colleges, suspension of in-person dining at restaurants and bars, and the closure of bowling alleys, movie theaters and casinos.

Under the order, effective through Dec. 8, indoor residential gatherings are limited to two households at any one time.

Child care centers, hair salons, retail shops and preschool through eighth-grade schools are still be allowed to operate. Parks and outdoor recreation areas will continue to be open, and gatherings of up to 25 people can take place at funerals. Restaurants can offer take-out and outdoor dining, while gyms and pools can be open for individual exercise.

Michigan's new cases have been doubling every two- to two-and-a-half weeks. 

Michigan’s daily record for deaths was reached on April 16 with 164.

Deaths stayed near single digits each day from July through September but spiked again with 10 to 18 per day in early October. Deaths have been trending upward this month, with 43 on Nov. 3, 65 on Nov. 7, 84 on Nov. 10 and 118 on Nov. 13.

A week before Thanksgiving, Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun and Whitmer warned against holiday gatherings Thursday, saying residents should avoid having Thanksgiving with anyone outside of their own household.

Khaldun said every region of the state is experiencing "alarming" infection rates and positivity rates in testing for the virus.

"Indoor gatherings are a major way that COVID-19 is spreading right now.” Khaldun said. “And at the rates we’re seeing in the state, it is very likely that if you are gathering for Thanksgiving, the virus will also be around the table."

The state department added new tracking Wednesday indicating that wastewater surveillance is being conducted in 37 counties throughout Michigan, in both the upper and lower peninsulas. There are approximately 270 testing sites, which include wastewater treatment plants and congregate facilities, such as jails, long-term care facilities, K-12 schools, universities, child care facilities and group homes.

The virus can be detected in wastewater for up to seven days. Officials believe monitoring wastewater can provide an early indication for the presence of the disease in the community before critical illnesses occur.

Hospitalizations of virus patients in Michigan are up more than five-fold over seven weeks, officials say. Health care leaders are projecting that the state will exceed the spring hospitalization peak late this month.

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, Michigan has the 10th highest hospitalization rate as a percentage of total beds and the sixth-highest number of COVID patients in ICUs.

Across the state, Michigan has just under 24,000 hospital inpatient beds. More than 77%, or 18,519, of those beds were filled as of Friday, according to data reported to the state by 88% of hospital systems. Intensive care beds were at 80% capacity, according to the reporting hospitals.

Unlike the spring surge, which was concentrated in southeast Michigan, this escalation is spread across the state. Nearly 11% of COVID tests run in the state are coming back positive. A positivity rate above 3% is concerning to public health officials.

"The situation has never been more dire," Whitmer said Sunday. "We are at the precipice, and we need to take some action."

The surge in cases comes as drugmakers are reporting encouraging results in trials of vaccines.

Pfizer said Wednesday that the latest interim results from its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study suggest the shots are 95% effective and that the vaccine protects older people most at risk of dying from COVID-19. The company said it plans within days to ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine.

On Monday, Moderna Inc. said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from an ongoing study. 

Pfizer said Friday it is asking U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, starting the clock on a process that could bring limited first shots as early as next month and eventually an end to the pandemic — but not until after a long, hard winter.

Chief executives of five major hospital systems across Michigan tried to wake up the public last week to the "exponential" rate of infection spread as patients fill up emergency rooms and hospital beds.

The hospital leaders pleaded with community members to help stem the spread by wearing masks, washing their hands, practicing social distancing and staying away from large social gatherings so medical centers don't become overrun with patients.

"The health care system can capsize if you don't keep it under control," Beaumont Health CEO John Fox said. 

The state was tracking more than 900 active outbreaks as of Sunday, its highest number yet, Khaldun said.

Top categories for outbreaks continue to be long-term care settings, such as nursing homes, manufacturing facilities and schools, but health officials are also seeing increases in the numbers of outbreaks in healthcare settings and in restaurants and bars, she said.

The state released 63 new school-related outbreaks adding to more than 150 existing outbreaks, the majority of which are at high schools.

At long-term care facilities, there are 991 new resident cases and 166 new deaths from the virus for a total of 12,449 cases and 3,018 deaths. Staff members continue to face hurdles within the facilities. There are 1,055 new confirmed staff cases for a total of 8,684 cases and 35 staff deaths, according to the state department.

Khaldun cautioned the state's contact-tracing system is "strained" right now due to the sheer volume of cases.

"While our local health departments are doing their best, as they have been doing all year, the system is simply not keeping up. It, too, has limited capacity," Khaldun said.

"Because there are now so many positive cases, and those cases, each have so many contacts, it is taking longer for us to reach all of them. This means that there may be people walking around who are a close contact with a positive case, and they don't even know it."

She said fewer than a third of positive cases the state is investigating were among people in quarantine at the time of their diagnosis, meaning over two-thirds of people with positive cases are out and about, potentially spreading the virus to others.