Everything you should know about COVID-19 in Michigan before Gov. Whitmer’s briefing

Whitmer joined by Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a Feb. 17, 2021, COVID-19 briefing. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is providing an update Wednesday on the handling of COVID-19 in Michigan.

The briefing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Click here to watch it live.

Whitmer will be joined by Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist.

Here’s what you should know about COVID-19 in Michigan before Whitmer’s briefing.

MDHHS order

Right now, Michigan is under an MDHHS order that tightens COVID-19 restrictions through March 29.

The order, which was originally put in place as a “pause” in mid-November, has been extended and modified several times throughout the last few months. It was quietly extended in early February, including the restrictions that keep restaurants at 25% capacity for indoor dining.

Restaurants are required to shut down indoor dining by 10 p.m., as well as follow other COVID-19 safety protocols.

1,000 new cases

After announcing fewer than 1,000 daily cases for nine of 10 days (two-day case reveals were never over 2,000), the state announced 1,316 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday.

It marked the highest single-day case count since Feb. 5.

The only other day that brought more than 1,000 cases over the last 10 days was Friday (Feb. 19), when Michigan announced 1,193 new cases.

The coming days will show whether Tuesday’s higher count was an outlier or a sign that cases are once again on the rise.

COVID-19 metrics

Like the daily case count, Michigan’s most important COVID-19 metrics have been trending in a positive direction over the past several weeks.

During last Wednesday’s briefing, Khaldun revealed further improvement in the state’s case, positivity and hospitalization rates.

Michigan’s case rate was at 113 cases per million people -- down 85% from the mid-November peak.

Only 3.9% of COVID-19 tests were coming back positive.

Finally, 5.2% of Michigan’s hospital beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients as of last week -- down 79% from late fall, Khaldun said.

“I continue to be very encouraged by the data we are seeing in the state, with regards to COVID-19,” Khaldun said.

B117 variant

Khaldun is also likely to give an update on the COVID-19 B117 variant, which has been spreading across the state more rapidly in February.

After an outbreak in the University of Michigan athletic department in which cases of the variant were contained to Washtenaw and Wayne counties, the state has seen the variant emerge in a dozen counties, as of last week.

Khaldun said last Wednesday that Michigan had confirmed 157 cases of the B117 variant across 12 counties.

Though it hasn’t been linked to more serious cases or caused issues with vaccines, the B117 variant is known to be more contagious than the original COVID strand, and therefore could cause Michigan’s metrics to rise, according to officials.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine protects against the virus, according to an analysis by U.S. regulators. That determination sets the stage for a final decision on a new and easier-to-use shot.

The Food and Drug Administration’s scientists confirmed that overall the vaccine is about 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19.

The agency also said J&J’s shot -- one that could help speed vaccinations by requiring just one dose instead of two -- is safe to use.

Michigan vaccinations

As of last week, Michigan had administered 1,657,215 vaccines, according to Whitmer.

Michigan was ninth in the nation in terms of total vaccinations administered, she said.

“We are ramping up our efforts to get second shots in arms while prioritizing our front line workers, educators, veterans and elderly populations,” Whitmer said.

About 14% of Michiganders had received at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 514,000 people were fully vaccinated with both doses, she said.

More than 35% of people 75 and older had received at least one dose of the vaccine, officials said.

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