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University of Michigan’s chief health officer weighs in on surge in COVID cases

Dr. Preeti Malani encourages everyone to get vaccinated

U of M health officer concerned about surging cases in younger people

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The surge in COVID cases has Metro Detroit hospitals on edge, concerned about what the next few weeks will look like.

There is also growing concern about the spread in younger people and children. University of Michigan’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Preeti Malani is an infectious disease specialist. She’s among the people who are highly concerned about the new surge in cases.

“In just a few weeks we’ve gone from being one of the lowest to being one of the highest and the rate of increase is what’s really concerning,” Malani said.

Malani believes there is no single reason for the surge but said that the more contagious variants are likely playing a role.

“We do have evidence the B117 variant is widespread in Michigan and it’s likely contributing to some of the really rapid spread we’re seeing,” Malani said. “Unlike prior waves, what we’re seeing now are larger numbers of cases in younger people. Including teens and children and this is very concerning. Especially as Michiganders have been traveling the last couple of weeks.”

Schools reopening and youth sports are also a factor.

“It’s not what happens in the classroom or during competition. But it’s the social activities that happen within these smaller groups,” Malani said.

Like many health systems, Michigan Medicine is seeing a shift in who’s being impacted as more seniors are vaccinated.

“We are seeing younger patients and what strikes me is these are people who have found a way to stay safe for an entire year and to get through three waves of infection only to become infected now,” Malani said.

Malani urges everyone to remain vigilant a little longer and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“The biggest thing we can do right now is to get vaccinated. Vaccination is not just about protecting ourselves. It’s about protecting everyone around us,” Malani said. “The situation in Michigan should be a warning to other states because Michigan’s not unique and it may simply be that we’re ahead of the curve but with COVID it’s never just one thing.”

A recent University of Michigan poll of adults older than 50 years old found double-digit increases in the percentage of Black, Hispanic and chronically ill adults who planned to get vaccinated or already had.

Malani encourages anyone worried about the vaccine to have a conversation with your doctor or another healthcare professional.

READ: Looking for COVID-19 vaccines in Metro Detroit: Track openings, clinics, appointments

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About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.