Michigan outlines 3 key COVID metrics that must decline for state to reopen, and why they matter

State officials want to see declining trends for all three metrics

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spoke about three key COVID-19 metrics during a Dec. 18, 2020, breifing. (WDIV)

Michigan officials have outlined three key COVID-19 metrics that need to decline before the state can continue to reopen safely. They also explained why those three metrics matter.

These numbers were explained Friday during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer‘s COVID-19 briefing, when she announced a new COVID-19 order that officially went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

The revised order is in effect through Jan. 15, but Whitmer said state officials would consider reopening parts of the state sooner if significant progress is made.

During the briefing, Whitmer pulled up a PowerPoint slide called “Key Metrics For Safe Restart.”

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The first metric listed is “share of hospital beds with COVID-19 patients,” which is the percentage of adult inpatient beds at Michigan hospitals that are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

According to the slide, this metric matters because it measures the current impact of COVID-19 spread on hospitals. It takes time after cases decline for this metric to show improvement, the state says.

COVID-19 case rate is the second metric. That’s the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per million residents in the state.

This matters because it’s a direct measure of COVID-19 spread statewide and drives hospitalizations. Case rate is one of the most common terms used by Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, when discussing how COVID-19 is trending.

Percent positivity is the final metric, and it simply refers to the number of all COVID-19 tests administered that come back positive.

Positivity rate measures whether the state could be missing cases in the community. It offers an early indication of future cases and hospitalizations.

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On Friday (Dec. 18), Khaldun said the state continues to see improvements among these three metrics.

Michigan is now at 439 cases per million people per day, with all eight geographical regions trending in the right direction. The Jackson Region has the highest case rate, at 589, and the Traverse City Region is the lowest, at 357.

Percent positivity had declined for 11 straight days as of Friday’s briefing, and was down to 10.6%. The Upper Peninsula, Traverse City and Lansing regions are all at 10% positivity or lower, Khaldun said.

The percentage of hospital beds being used to treat COVID-19 patients had been declining over the past 13 days, as of Friday.

Khaldun said the percentage was down to 17.3% -- ranging from 11.2% in the Upper Peninsula to 23.3% in the Saginaw Region.

“These are encouraging numbers,” Khaldun said. “Michiganders did what they were supposed to do over the Thanksgiving holiday, and we avoided the surge so many other states are seeing.”

Though the case rate remains six times higher than it was at the beginning of September, the key metrics are all trending in the right direction.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.