Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Michigan continue to rise, but what do these numbers mean?

Confirmed cases, death toll increase daily

Each day, the number of confirmed coronvirus (COVID-19) cases in Michigan rises, while the death toll is also increasing.

DETROIT – Each day, the number of confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Michigan rises, while the death toll is also increasing.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there are 1,791 confirmed cases and 24 people have died. The state is currently ranked fifth in the nation for documented cases and seventh for the number of deaths as a result of the virus.

Metro Detroit has been hit the hardest by the virus. While some areas of the state have only been minimally affected, southeast Michigan hospitals are pushing past their usual capacity.

READ: Officials say Beaumont hospitals are nearing ventilator capacity

During a conference call Monday night, state officials said no COVID-19 patient who has needed a ventilator has been removed from the ventilator -- they have either died or are still on it. Meanwhile, more people continue to need ventilators as the number of them available continues to decrease since others are still using them.

The state is currently in a place to care for all patients like it would under normal circumstances, but that is rapidly changing, and it will soon get to a point where health care providers will have to decide who gets a ventilator and who doesn’t.

To help slow the spread, it is crucial to treat every person you come in contact with as if they are infected with the virus. Failing to reduce the number of people infected at the same time will result in overwhelmed hospitals and those difficult choices about who gets the help they need.

It is important to note that while the number of cases is going up, it does not mean social distancing is not working. People who are testing positive now could have been exposed to the virus several weeks ago, and many people don’t show symptoms for several days.

It will take weeks to see the results of the stay-at-home order and other social distancing measures that have been put in place.

How COVID-19 Spreads

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • Spread is possible before people show symptoms. People who are not showing symptoms can still be carrying the virus and can still pass it on to other people.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily the virus spreads

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

Prevention & Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

MORE: Beaumont Health launches coronavirus hotline for patients with symptoms

People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Question about coronavirus? Ask Dr. McGeorge here.

Read more about coronavirus here.

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.