Michigan has 5th-highest virus rate in US over past week
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan had the country’s fifth-highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in the last week and is among 14 states where infections rose over the past two weeks, a trend that may be tied to the increasing prevalence of a more contagious coronavirus variant, health officials said Wednesday.
One of every 602 Michigan residents was diagnosed with COVID-19 over the seven-day period that ended Monday — a rate that trailed those of only four East Coast states. Michigan had the country’s 10th-highest per-capita case rate over the 14-day period that ended Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers.
The seven-day case average was 2,372, an increase of more than 1,000 from the 1,335 case average as of March 1. The average positivity rate, 6.4%, was 3.8% two weeks ago.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said Michigan is in a “different place” than earlier in the pandemic because of vaccinations, but she warned that herd immunity is still quite some distance away. At least 25% of state residents ages 16 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine.
State Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel said that to achieve herd immunity and stop the uncontrolled spread of the virus, 90% to 95% of people will probably need to have been vaccinated or gained immunity through contracting COVID-19.
“We are hopeful that as we get more and more vaccines into the state and more and more people vaccinated, we will not see the type of surge we saw in 2020. But I still think we are at risk,” said Khaldun, noting that new virus variants are more easily spread and the vaccine — while still effective — may not be as effective against them.
Coronavirus-related hospitalizations have increased over the last three weeks but are well below the peak from over three months ago. More than 60% of people ages 65 and older — those more at risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 — have gotten at least one vaccine dose.
In recent months, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has gradually relaxed restrictions that were imposed in November to curb spiking cases, hospitalizations and deaths that later declined.
In December, high schools could again offer in-person classes and entertainment businesses could reopen with limited capacity. Indoor restaurant dining and contact sports resumed in February. Larger indoor and outdoor gatherings were allowed this month. And the governor encouraged schools to provide the option of face-to-face instruction by March 1.
Sarah Lyon-Callo, director of the state’s Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health, said classrooms themselves are not a “strong signal” for school-related outbreaks, which tend to be tied instead to sports and other activities. A Lansing-area school district this week reported 47 cases linked to several athletic teams. Testing showed at least some had a more infectious variant that was first detected in Britain.
Michigan has had more than 700 confirmed cases of that variant, which is the second-most of any state.
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