Michigan COVID-19 deaths top 500, travel screeched to a halt after stay home order

There are more than 14K cases 

Road work in downtown Lansing | Susan J. Demas

First, the good news. Michiganders have stopped traveling, following one of the key public health guidelines to halting the spread of COVID-19.

A statewide coronavirus hotline is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1-888-535-6136. Information can be found on the DHHS website or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention website.

That’s according to the New York Times, which analyzed anonymous cell phone data from 15 million people for the week of March 23 to track how people were traveling amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Michigan’s stay at home order went into effect on March 24.

In Michigan, 80 of 83 counties show travel of less than one mile per day, per the Times. Alpena, Baraga and Dickinson are the exceptions, but they are still posting less than half as normal traffic. 

The data show that many people in the West, Northeast and Midwest are complying with stay at home orders.

Aaron A. King, a University of Michigan professor who studies the ecology of infectious disease, told the Times, “That’s huge. By any measure this is a massive change in behavior, and if we can make a similar reduction in the number of contacts we make, every indication is that we can defeat this epidemic.”

Whitmer: ‘We are nowhere near the end’ of COVID-19 outbreak 

And now the bad news. There are now 540 people who have died of COVID-19 in Michigan. That’s 61 new deaths, as there were 479 on Friday.

There are now 14,225 positive cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by a new coronavirus, as of 3 p.m. Saturday, although state officials believe the actual number of cases is much higher. There were 12,744 cases on Friday, so that’s an increase of 1,481 cases. Sixty-nine of Michigan’s 83 counties have cases and 33 have reported deaths.

Metro Detroit continues to be hardest hit by the virus. Detroit, the only city with its own health department, reported 3,958 cases and 131 deaths. The rest of Wayne County had 2,804 cases and 121 deaths.

Oakland County posted 2,785 cases and 142 deaths. Macomb County had 1,838 cases and 78 deaths.

The state recently started including racial data. Notably, African Americans are 34% of cases and 40% of deaths. Whites are 24% of cases and 29% of deaths. Asians compose 1% of both categories. The race was unknown for 36% of cases and 26% of deaths.

Duggan: Every single Detroiter should have access to COVID-19 test

The new state-reported numbers only recently began incorporating data from other commercial and private labs and hospitals around Michigan, which caused an apparent spike in numbers that speaks more to the number of cases just now being publicly reported.

The first two cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state on March 10. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency that day.

Johns Hopkins University reports that there are 1.17 million confirmed cases worldwide and almost 64,000 deaths. In the United States, there are almost 300,000 confirmed cases and almost 8,100 deaths.

Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.