Everything to know about COVID in Michigan before Gov. Whitmer’s update

Whitmer to hold briefing one year after Michigan confirmed first COVID case

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a March 2, 2021, COVID-19 briefing. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – Wednesday marks one year since the state of Michigan confirmed its first cases of COVID-19, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will hold a briefing to update the current state of the virus.

The briefing is scheduled to begin at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday. Click here to watch it live.

Here’s everything you should know before the update.

Relief funding

On Tuesday, Whitmer signed off on at least $2.5 billion in COVID-19 relief funding.

The legislation supports Whitmer’s COVID-19 recovery plan, including a $2.25 per hour wage increase for direct care workers, $283 million in federal emergency rental assistance, up to $110 million for vaccine administration and up to $555 million for testing and tracing, state officials said.

“I think it’s great news that we’ve been able to get some of the federal funding available to us appropriated, including passing two of my key proposals to provide a wage increase for direct care workers and increased funding to help expand vaccinations for Michiganders who are 50 years old or older,” Whitmer said.

South Africa variant

Michigan confirmed its first case of the B.1.351 COVID-19 variant earlier this week.

The variant, which was first detected in South Africa has been found in a child in Jackson County, according to health officials.

The health department did not say how the boy was infected but a case investigation is underway to determine close contacts and if there are additional cases associated.

Officials said B.1.351 is believed to be more contagious but there is no indication that it “affects the clinical outcomes or disease severity compared to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has been circulating across the United States for months.”

UK variant

The emergence of the B.1.351 strand of COVID-19 means there are now two specific variants in Michigan.

Last week, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said the state has identified 422 cases of the B117 variant from the United Kingdom.

“We know the new, more easily transmitted B117 variant is present, and if that variant becomes more prevalent across the state, we could see a more rapid increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” Khaldun said.

There have been cases of the variant identified around the state in which officials don’t know how it was transmitted, she said. That means there is likely “undetected spread occurring in the community.”

Reopening Michigan

During last week’s briefing, Whitmer and Khaldun announced the reopening of several segments of Michigan’s economy.

Michigan restaurants are now allowed to fill up to 50% capacity, with a maximum of 100 people. The indoor dining curfew was pushed back from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Retail shops and businesses are able to operate at 50% capacity. Visitation at nursing homes is allowed.

Restrictions on personal care services and entertainment venues were also relaxed.

MORE: Why Michigan officials felt now was right time to loosen COVID-19 restrictions

COVID metrics

Michigan’s COVID-19 metrics have been improving for several weeks, but now, they’re starting to plateau, according to Khaldun.

The trend is similar to what officials saw at the beginning of October.

The state’s positivity rate rose last week for the first time in months, up to 3.7%. It ended Michigan’s streak of decreasing in all three major metrics.

Officials said the change in positivity rate is also similar to early October, but still, they are encouraged by the overall progress since the fall peak.

“Our case count and positivity rates remain among the lowest in the nation,” Whitmer said.

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