Michigan’s top health official: “Do not think you are going to outsmart this virus”


Dr. Joneigh Khaldun provides an update on the state of coronavirus in Michigan as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer looks on during a July 28, 2020 briefing in Lansing. (Courtesy Michigan Executive Office of the Governor)

Lansing, Mich. (WLNS) — Michigan’s top health official announced at a press conference today that Michigan is doing better than other states in handling the pandemic, but that the state’s positive COVID-19 rate should be less than it currently is.

“When you look at other states in the nation, we are doing better,” Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for Health and Human Services said. “We’re sort of at a plateau, and that is better than an increase; we’d still like to see our cases less than 20 cases per million people per day.”

Testing numbers in the state “look really good” over a seven-day average of 28,000 tests, Dr. Khaldun said. About 2% of the population is tested weekly and the percent of tests positive in Michigan is 3.3%.

“That’s something we want to keep watching,” Dr. Khaldun said, adding that a positive testing rate of under 3% is a sign the spread of the virus is under control.

Regional Breakdown

Looking at COVID-19 infection rates by day, the Detroit region has the highest case rate of 60 cases per 1 million people per day.

Dr. Khaldun said the high case rate is driven by the counties surrounding the Metro-Detroit area. When asked about the disparity between the City of Detroit and outlying counties, Dr. Khaldun said she contacted Macomb County to discuss ways to mitigate the spread of the virus into Detroit.


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She said increases in Detroit are due to social gatherings, sometimes businesses and other activities taking place in a specific outlying county.

Saginaw has the second highest case rate in Michigan with 54 new COVID-19 cases per million people reported daily. Saginaw has been experiencing a slight increase in cases.

Regions also seeing an increase in the past two weeks include Traverse City and Grand Rapids.

Regions seeing a decline in cases per million people per day include: the Upper Peninsula, Kalamazoo, Jackson and Lansing.

Where the outbreaks are occurring

According to Dr. Khaldun, state health officials have recently identified 85 new outbreaks in the state. Those outbreaks occur predominantly in settings such as long-term care facilities, social gatherings, offices, agricultural and food processing plants and manufacturing plants.

“Do not think you are going to outsmart this virus,” Dr. Khaldun said. “If you’re going to a large gathering with no mask and not social distancing, there is a chance you can get the disease and you can pass it to others.”

Khaldun added that the “coronavirus is not something that everyone is bouncing back from quickly.”

Scientists and researchers are still unsure of the long-term impacts of the coronavirus, which could include brain, lung and heart damage.

Contact tracing

Dr. Khaldun said contact tracing is a priority for Michigan as she reported in the past month, 20,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19. Staff and volunteers have reached out to 90% of those people testing positive.

Since early May, Khaldun said the team has made more than 100,000 phone calls to people diagnosed with COVID-19 in efforts to better contact trace COVID-19.

But Khaldun said that the phone calls haven’t always been as successful as the staff has hoped.

She reported contact tracers are only successful with reaching 60% of the people who tested positive for the virus.


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