Everything that’s happened with COVID in Michigan since Gov. Whitmer’s last briefing 17 days ago

Daily COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in Michigan

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

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hasn’t had a COVID-19 briefing in 17 days, but the virus has continued to spread rapidly throughout the state.

Here’s a look at how the pandemic has changed since the governor’s most recent update on March 19.

Daily COVID cases

When Whitmer last gave a briefing, she revealed the state’s metrics had worsened for the fourth straight week.

“Cases have been rising since late February,” Whitmer said. “Thankfully, deaths have remained low.”

That day, Michigan reported 3,730 new COVID cases, which was the highest single-day total of this most recent spike.

It’s only gotten worse from there. Michigan eclipsed 4,000 single-day cases on March 24, and confirmed more than 5,000 new cases each of the following two days. On Saturday (April 3), Michigan reported 8,413 new cases -- the highest total since Dec. 4.

Vaccinations

The good news for Michigan’s fight against COVID-19 is that while cases increase, so do vaccinations.

As of Friday (April 2), 2,853,278 Michiganders have been vaccinated for COVID-19 -- that’s 35.2% of the state’s population.

In total, 4,522,415 doses of the vaccine have been administered. That’s an increase of 1,212,253 doses since Whitmer announced the state had administered 3,310,162 doses as of March 19.

Starting Monday, any Michigan resident 16 and older is eligible to receive the vaccine, though many have been able to schedule appointments already.

At the end of March, Whitmer announced the state had increased its goal from vaccinating 50,000 Michiganders per day to 100,000 per day.

More younger adults in ICU

On March 31, Local 4′s Dr. Frank McGeorge expressed concern over a “very clear increase” in COVID-19 patients coming to the emergency room in Detroit.

“I would honestly say the virus trend today in Michigan feels worse than it was during the wave that started back in November,” McGeorge said.

He said the most concerning trend was the number of middle-aged people coming to the emergency room with severe cases of COVID-19.

“We have about a quarter of the patients who are hospitalized at our main hospital actually in the intensive care unit right now,” said Dr. Geneva Tatem, of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. “We’ve seen a shift to a little bit younger age group. They’re about 5 years or so younger than we’ve seen in the past.”

Michigan’s hospitalizations have sharply increased, with a growth rate more severe than the one we saw during the winter surge.

Testing ramps up

Michigan officials have ramped up COVID-19 testing at nursing homes, schools and airports.

“Now is the time for us all to come together and do what’s necessary to end this pandemic,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “We are making progress in the fight against the virus with more than 4 million doses administered and 2.6 million Michiganders having at least their first dose of the safe and effective COVD-19 vaccine. It is important, now more than ever, that we double down on the things that work: wearing masks, social distancing, getting tested and making plans to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

The state announced the following:

  • More than 1.4 million antigen tests were sent to long-term care facilities.
  • More than 72,000 free tests were conducted at neighborhood testing sites in socially vulnerable communities and continue to provide testing.
  • Over 76,000 students, student-athletes and teachers in K-12 schools were tested in more than 500 school districts.
  • Testing for student-athletes began Friday (April 2).
  • Free post-spring break testing pop-up sites are planned for school districts in 34 communities.
  • Testing sites at welcome centers and Michigan airports are in the works for returning travelers.

Variants

On Thursday (April 1), Michigan confirmed its first case of the P1 COVID-19 variant, which was first identified in Brazil.

The P1 variant was found in a Bay County resident, and it’s the third COVID-19 variant identified in the state.

“We are concerned about the discovery of another variant in Michigan,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said. “It is now even more important that Michiganders continue to do what works to slow the spread of the virus by wearing their masks properly, socially distancing, avoiding crowds, washing their hands often and making a plan to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine once it is their turn.”

Michigan has already identified more than 1,400 cases of the B117 variant, which was first found in the United Kingdowm. As of March 31, the exact number of confirmed cases of B117 in Michigan was 1,468, Khaldun said.

There have also been seven confirmed cases of the B.1.135 variant in Michigan. That strand was originally discovered in South Africa.

Experts were concerned the presence of these variants would cause Michigan’s numbers to spike because they are believed to be more contagious. That appears to have come to fruition, though the total number of new COVID cases each day is far exceeding the number of confirmed variant cases.

Officials not planning new restrictions

Even though Michigan’s COVID-19 trends are heading in the wrong direction and three variants have been confirmed in the state, new restrictions aren’t currently being considered, as of March 31.

Whitmer said Michigan will focus on masking and vaccinations to try to get the spread of COVID-19 back under control. In the past, Whitmer and MDHHS had issued pandemic orders shutting down restaurants, entertainment facilities and more.

Restaurants were reopened for indoor dining Feb. 1, and capacity was increased to 50% at the beginning of March. Restrictions that banned certain businesses from selling concessions were also loosened.

Case rates could certainly reach a point that force new restrictions, but as of now, it’s clear Whitmer and the state want to combat COVID-19 through the new vaccination goal and safety measures.


About the Author:

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.