Michigan COVID data shows troubling trends: Should we be worried?

Key metrics moving in wrong direction

FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2020, file photo, boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing plant in Portage, Mich. Michigan announced Wednesday, March 3, 2021, that everyone ages 50 to 64 can start getting COVID-19 vaccinations on March 22 and that those in that group withcertainmedical conditions can begin being immunized next week. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, Pool, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Michigan’s COVID-19 data is showing some red flags as the race to vaccinate picks up steam - a look at the data. (This first appeared in the Morning Report Newsletter -- sign up for it here)


Looking at the COVID-19 data in Michigan right now, it’s a bit concerning. No, I’m not sounding an alarm of any kind -- I’m not telling you to lock your doors and hide. But, as you’ll see below, there are some troubling trends starting to show up.

It’s not surprising that trends are going up. Everything in Michigan is open. There are built in risks to opening up bars, entertainment venues and private gatherings.

Related: White House COVID-19 Response Team urges caution as states loosen restrictions

During the pandemic, the state has used a handful of key metrics to make decisions on restrictions -- positive test rates, daily case rates and hospitalizations. So, let’s take a look at how things are trending.

📈 Positive test rate

As of Monday, the 7-day average for positive test percentage was up to 5.66%. About three weeks ago, this number was at 3.2%, one of the lowest we’ve had on record.

Since bottoming out at 3.2%, the rate is steadily increased. Overall diagnostic testing is a bit lower than it was in late 2020, but it’s steady, around 35,000 daily tests.

While 5.66% is not the end of the world, it’s the trend that is troubling.

Back in the fall 2020 peak, the highest COVID peak in Michigan, the state hit 5.6% in late October -- one month later, it was 13%. So, just something to watch.

📈 Daily cases

Since hitting a several month low in the 7-day moving average for new cases back on Feb. 20, the average has steadily increased -- now up to 1,795, the highest in about seven weeks.

Again, I point to late October 2020, when the 7-day average hit 1,700. One month later it was 6,500. Things can change quickly. Just another thing to watch.

🏥 Hospitalizations

A big key metric has been hospitalizations and hospital capacity. You remember “flatten the curve,” right?

Overall, hospitalizations are much lower than they were in the fall, but they have been trending up, slightly, for the last three weeks.

Inpatients in critical care has increased from 186 on Feb. 25 to 278 on March 15. Ventilator use is also up, just slightly.

This is a BIG data point to watch -- if cases swing up again, but hospitalizations don’t follow, it will tell us a lot about the demographic spreading COVID right now. Which brings us to our next point.

💉 Silver lining: Vaccines

This is not the fall. This isn’t 2020. We have vaccines now -- and things are moving quickly.

As of Monday, Michigan has reported 60% of people 75 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, with 35% fully vaccinated. Nearly 60% of the 65-74 group have received one dose. This is a big deal. These two age groups far outpace other age groups in hospitalizations, severe COVID-19 cases and deaths.

About a quarter of Michigan residents have received at least one dose, while nearly 14% are fully vaccinated. The state broke the 3 million mark for total doses administered on Monday.

In the U.S., 35% of the 65 and older population are fully vaccinated. The U.S. has administered more than 109 million doses of vaccines as of Monday afternoon.

The big question is -- can we vaccinate, especially vulnerable populations, quick enough to stave off another massive COVID-19 spike that fills up our hospitals? We don’t know yet -- that’s the honest answer.

In Europe, the spread of variants have forced new lockdown measures in Italy and parts of Poland, as ICU beds fill up. Last week, countries in the Western Balkans announced a tightening of measures amid a surge in cases in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro.

Bottom line: This isn’t over yet. Be vigilant. Be safe. Keep washing your hands. Avoid crowds. Wear a mask. Get vaccinated when it’s your turn. You know the drill. The finish line is close, but we can’t win if we stop playing defense -- we can’t let COVID back into the game. (Sports analogies!)

(As always, you can track COVID-19 data with us right here. We update it daily)



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