Michigan now ranks 5th nationally in COVID-19 deaths

Sign encouraging mask wearing during COVID-19, Ann Arbor | Susan J. Demas

Michigan has recorded the sixth-highest number of COVID-19 cases and the fifth-highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the nation, according to an update from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Wednesday. 

Michigan continues to experience a fall surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The state has 272,034 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 8.128 deaths, according to DHHS on Tuesday. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced more pandemic restrictions, which were handed down by DHHS as an epidemic order. The updated restrictions went into effect Wednesday and will last until Dec. 8. 

The Michigan Association for Local Public Health (MALPH) said they appreciate DHHS’ and Whitmer’s decisive action toward the current surge in cases. 

DHHS COVID-19 update, Nov. 18, 2020

“Community spread is occurring rapidly across the entire state of Michigan. We are asking all Michiganders to step up and follow the latest Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ epidemic order. Please adhere to the crucial guidance from MDHHS and gather only with your social pod, limit your time outside your home, and when you must leave, wear a mask,” MALPH said in a press release. “We know these restrictions are difficult for everyone, especially with the upcoming holidays. In order to prevent spreading COVID-19 to your loved ones, consider alternative ways to celebrate”

In the Wednesday update, DHHS Director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health Sarah Lyon-Callo said that more than 15% of inpatient beds in the state are being used to treat COVID-19 patients and this trend is continuing to increase.

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, Michigan has the 10th highest hospitalization rate as a percent of total beds and the sixth-highest number of COVID patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). Michigan is at roughly 75% of its spring peak for hospitalizations, but they are spread across the state this time.

“It’s important to remember that these hospitalizations are spread across the entire state, as opposed to concentrated in Southeast Michigan like they were in the spring,” Lyon-Callo said. 

DHHS COVID-19 update, Nov. 18, 2020

Lyon-Callo said that testing in the state has increased. More than 53,000 people have been tested each day within the last week, and the testing rate is over 6,000 tests per million people.

Testing all across the state has increased 89% since Oct. 1, Lyon-Callo said. However, the percentage of tests that are positive has increased 290%.

“What that tells me as an epidemiologist — when I see that the state case rate has increased 425% during that same time — is that we need to be testing more,” Lyon-Callo said. “It’s very important that, if people think they need a test, that they go get one.”

She said Michigan’s daily case rate is currently over five times the rate it was in early October. She also said the number of deaths each day is going to continue to climb, as the current number of deaths is over four times the number from the beginning of October.

DHHS COVID-19 update, Nov. 18, 2020

“It’s important to recognize that case rates have exponentially increased for all ages of the state,” she said. 

According to a graph on outbreak investigations, most outbreaks are in schools, assisted living environments, construction sites, health care environments and bars and restaurants. 

In response to how a vaccine might affect Michigan’s trends, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said they are “aggressively working to plan on vaccine distribution.”

“There is no question: The day that vaccine comes available, it will only be available in limited quantities. It will only be available for those that the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has determined are the highest-risk populations,” Khaldun said. “It will be several months well into 2021 before that vaccine is even available or widely distributed to the general population.”