State and local public health officials expressed concern Tuesday about how COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are beginning to rise in Michigan during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon. Hospitalizations have gone up 80% in recent weeks, officials warned.
At the briefing, officials pleaded that Michiganders continue taking precautions to prevent a potential second wave of the virus.
As the colder weather approaches, officials said they strongly suggest people continue to take important steps like getting a flu shot, wearing masks everywhere, avoiding large gatherings, washing hands and staying home if they are sick.
“It’s very possible that this is the beginning of an additional surge — or wave — of cases,” said Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for Health for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “That is why we are asking everyone to please remain vigilant and do these basic things like wearing masks and avoiding these social gatherings.”
Michigan has almost 138,000 coronavirus cases and almost 7,000 deaths.
Other officials in attendance were Michigan Association for Local Public Health President and District Health Department Health Officer and Environmental Health Director Nick DeRusha; and Michigan Health and Hospital Association Chief Executive Officer Brian Peters.
Khaldun said it’s good that Michigan has been testing 30,000 people on average each day. However, she said she is concerned that the percentage of positive tests has slowly been creeping up.
Michigan currently has 89 cases per million daily, Khaldun said. Additionally, in several locations across the state — including the Kalamazoo, Lansing and Grand Rapids regions — cases are the highest they’ve ever been throughout the entire pandemic.
Khaldun said 123 new outbreaks were recorded during the week of Oct 8. She said the top categories for these new outbreaks are long-term care, nursing home settings, schools and social gatherings.
She said hospitalizations have started to rise in every region of the state for the past two weeks.
“What is concerning is, while in August we saw a surge in cases that were primarily in the younger age groups, we’re now seeing a rise in the older population, as well,” Khaldun said.
Peters said that hospitalizations in Michigan are now “approaching the pummeling levels that we saw earlier this summer.”
“We now have nearly 700 Michiganders [with COVID-19] admitted to our Michigan hospitals,” Peters said.
Derusha said we have not seen this kind of spread of COVID-19 in the Upper Peninsula since the start of the pandemic.
“Now, in the last couple months, cases have increased substantially in the Upper Peninsula. Upper Peninsula hospitals have one of the highest percentages of impatient beds with COVID-19 patients,” Derusha said. “And, until a couple of days ago, our region had the highest percentage in the state.”
People can help by following isolation and quarantine guidance from local public health departments, Derusha said.
“Sadly, we have seen on multiple occasions where individuals have broken quarantine to attend another social gathering and have later tested positive, exposing more people to the virus and leading to more cases,” he said.
The UP is averaging more than 70 new cases per million daily, Derusha said. He said the virus will remain until a vaccine is available, and it won’t go away just because we want it to.
He said he understands that a lot of people have “gotten tired of public health recommendations, as case numbers remained low for so long.”
“But now more than ever, we need your help to contain the spread of the virus within our communities. Your hard work early in the pandemic was very successful in keeping our region safe,” he said.
Peters said this upward trend must be stopped.
“The good news is that we’re not in a capacity crisis with our hospitals today, but we could be soon if people in our communities don’t return to the level of vigilance we saw earlier in the year,” Peters said.
To Michiganders who want to show their thanks to health care workers, say thanks by wearing a mask, he said.
All officials at the press briefing also strongly suggested residents to get a flu shot.
“This is the year — if you never thought you wanted to get a flu shot before — this is the year to get it,” Khaldun said.
“All Michiganders — north, south, east and west — must continue to be vigilant and do what it takes to protect themselves, their friends, family and neighbors. It is within our power to control the spread of this virus,” Derusha said.