Washtenaw County reports highest-ever 24-hour COVID case count

“It’s disappointing but not unexpected,” says county deputy health officer

FILE - Kristin Grant, a microbiologist on the COVID-19 team at the Washington State Department of Health's Public Health Laboratory, loads samples that tested positive for COVID-19 into a machine that prepares them for automated genome sequencing, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, in Shoreline, Wash. Data from the sequencing can then help determine which variant of the virus is present. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) (Ted S. Warren, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ANN ARBOR – Consistent with the state of Michigan’s Wednesday announcement of a record-shattering 12,929 daily COVID cases, Washtenaw County is reporting its highest-ever number of cases this week.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the Washtenaw County Health Department announced that 641 cases of the virus were reported in the last 24 hours, calling it “the highest 24-hour case count we’ve ever had (by far).”

The Department said the omicron variant is spreading rapidly and encouraged residents to take up multi-layered prevention strategies amid the surge.

These practices include wearing a multi-layered, well-fitting mask in public indoor spaces, getting vaccinated against COVID-19, avoiding gatherings and isolating at home if you become sick.

Read: 5 data points that show Michigan’s COVID-19 position heading into 2022

“It’s disappointing but not unexpected because we know that omicron is more transmissible,” said Washtenaw County deputy health officer Ruth Kraut. “We also know that over break, many people get together with friends and family. You have Christmas and then we’ve got New Year’s, and then people are traveling. In some ways that’s kind of a perfect storm.”

Kraut said that many people have yet to get their COVID booster shots, and some have yet to start their primary vaccination series, leaving them vulnerable to highly contagious strains.

She said one positive trend is that nearly 50% of all 5-11 year olds in Washtenaw County have started their vaccination series and that one-third of them are now fully vaccinated.

“Keep vaccinating,” said Kraut. “Get yourselves vaccinated, get your booster if you have not and get your kids vaccinated if they are not.”

Looking ahead to New Year’s Eve, which also coincides with Michigan football’s Orange Bowl game against Georgia, she urged residents to try and reduce the size of their gatherings.

“The fact is that people are contagious for two days before they test positive or before symptoms start,” said Kraut. “So, it’s very likely that someone could come to watch the ball game with you and then the next day find out that they don’t feel well and they actually have COVID.

“If that does happen, then you really need to be sure to notify your close contacts, don’t just assume that people will know and don’t be ashamed that you got COVID because lots of people are getting sick.”

Read: New COVID-19 cases in US soar to highest levels on record

She said with such highly transmissible variants, it’s more important than ever that people take isolation and quarantine seriously. Although the CDC just announced a shortened five-day isolation period for asymptomatic individuals or for individuals whose symptoms have resolved, Kraut said the updated timeline doesn’t necessarily apply to each case.

“I think the important thing to know is that the majority of people are still contagious at day five,” she said. “We recommend that you take a rapid test on day five or six and if you’re still positive, stay home -- you’re still contagious. If you don’t feel well, just as if you have strep or flu, stay home. This is how we keep other people from getting sick.”

Kraut said if you must go out after five days, wearing a N95 or KN95 mask is the best way to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Cases have remained high in Washtenaw County since late August, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared the county had transitioned into a “high” COVID transmission level.

According to the county’s COVID data dashboard, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID are trending in the wrong direction, with 104 new hospital admissions and 22 deaths of residents between Dec. 8 and Dec. 21.