WHITMER UPDATE: Michigan COVID-19 positivity rate increase 177% in last four weeks


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)— Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer held a news conference Friday morning, to provide an update on COVID-19.

During that news conference, the governor announced an update to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) epidemic order, now allowing up to 20% capacity in outdoor stadiums and arenas that establish infection control plans.  The update also increases testing for youth ages 13-19 to ensure athletes can safely participate in sports

“The pandemic has been hard on all of us, but by staying focused on acting quickly, following the science, and listening to experts, we can save lives and help our economy recover faster,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Today’s action is an important step towards normalcy, but there’s still more work to do. As always, mask up, maintain social distancing and wash your hands. We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of the virus so we can end this pandemic together. By April 5, all Michiganders will be eligible for the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is the most effective way to protect you and your family from the virus, and I urge all Michiganders to get vaccinated as soon as it’s available to you.”  

Those capacity increases need the following in place to be legal:

  • Establishes an infection control plan that complies with the protocols included in MDHHS’s document entitled Enhanced Outdoor Stadium and Arena Guidance
  • Posts the mitigation plan publicly. 
  • Sends infection control plans to the local health department and MDHHS at least seven days before scheduled events
  • Administers a testing program as specified in MDHHS’s Guidance for Athletics for all players.

The governor was joined by the state’s Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

“More than 3.2 million doses of the safe and effective COVID vaccines have been administered in Michigan, and we are well on our way to vaccinating 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and up,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “While we are still very much fighting this pandemic and seeing concerning trends in new cases and hospitalizations, we are making these incremental steps that align with CDC guidance. We are again at a pivotal moment in our fight against COVID-19.  Michiganders must continue doing what works to slow the spread of the disease by wearing a mask, washing their hands, avoiding crowds and making a plan to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they can.”  

MDHHS had been closely monitoring three metrics for stabilization or declines over the past several weeks.  Michigan’s metrics have been increasing for the past few weeks. The presence of more infectious variants, such as the B 1.1.7 variant, threatens our progress in control of the epidemic and MDHHS will be monitoring data closely. In recent days:   

  • Positivity rate: has increased for four weeks to 6.2%. This metric is up 177% from the mid-February low but remains below the December high of 19.4%.  
  • Statewide case rate: This metric has increased over the past four weeks to 172.9 cases per million. The rate is up 77% from the low in mid-February but remains below the peak of 737.8 cases per million on Saturday, Nov 14. 
  • Hospital capacity dedicated to COVID-19 is now at 4.9%. This metric peaked at 19.6% on Tuesday, Dec. 4, and is now up 25% from an end of February low.   

“MDHHS continues to monitor the data to make decisions that allow us to return to normalcy. This includes case counts, percent positivity and hospitalizations,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director.  We are making this capacity change along with required safety protocols designed to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.”   

Today’s news conference comes, as Michigan reported 2,629 more confirmed cases of coronavirus and 25 more related deaths yesterday.

Twenty-four of the deaths were discovered in a review of death certificates to find any that had not already been reported to the state.

The Thursday update brings the total number of cases in Michigan to 618,421 since the virus was first detected here a year ago and the total number of associated deaths to 15,835.

On Wednesday, labs tested 49,556 samples for the virus and 3,067 were positive. That’s a positivity rate of 6.19%. The number of positive tests is not the same as the number of new cases because people may be tested more than once. Additionally, testing numbers are from a single calendar date, while the number of new cases lists the increase since the last time the state compiled the data; these two time frames do not match up precisely.

According to other data released this week, Michigan also accounts for 15% of all new B.1.1.7 variant cases in the U.S., according to Dr. Sarah Lyon-Callo, director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health at Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The Centers for Disease Control is reporting 4,686 new cases of the COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7.

Lyon-Callo said Michigan has now recorded 725 confirmed cases of the new variant.

The variant has been found in 31 counties in both peninsulas; more than half of those come from an outbreak within the state prison system. There has also been one case of the highly contagious B.1.351 variant in Jackson County.

Michigan now ranks ninth in the nation for highest number of cases (up three spots) and 10th in highest case rate (up 17 spots). Michigan is now seeing a sharper increase in cases than any of its Great Lakes neighbors.

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