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

Whitmer to discuss efforts to slow spread of COVID-19

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a Feb. 9, 2021, COVID-19 briefing. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is set to provide an update Wednesday on the state’s handling of COVID-19.

The briefing is scheduled to begin at noon. Click here to watch it live.

Here’s everything you should know about COVID-19 in the state before the governor’s update.

Case count tumbling

Michigan reported just 775 new COVID cases and 19 additional deaths Tuesday. The total number of new daily cases has been at or below 1,000 for about a week now.

This is a major achievement for the state, which was once reporting more than 9,000 cases per day late in 2020.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, has been reporting more promising COVID-19 metrics across the board since the start of February.

Last week (Feb. 9), Michigan reported 144 cases of COVID-19 per million population per day, Khaldun said. The case rate was steadily declining and was down 81% from the mid-November peak, she said.

The state’s percent positivity was 4.5% and continuing to decline, according to the state.

Khaldun said only 6% of hospital beds were currently occupied by COVID-19 patients. That number is down 72% since the “fall peak” on Dec. 1.

Look for Khaldun to update the state’s case rate, percent positivity and hospitalization rate again during Wednesday’s briefing.

B117 variant

The number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 B117 variant continues to rise. Last week, Khaldun announced 45 cases had been confirmed across 10 Michigan counties.

On Tuesday, officials announced 90 cases have been identified at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia.

Of those 90 cases, 88 are prisoners and two are employees, officials said. More than 100 lab results are still pending.

Could variant spread cause lockdown?

On Feb. 9, during her last briefing, Whitmer was asked about the chance of more restrictions being put in place.

“If these become the dominant viruses going around, what’s the likelihood that we could go back to more lockdowns of restaurants and other public gatherings?” Whitmer was asked.

“No one wants to go back, take steps backward,” Whitmer said. “That’s why we’re asking everyone to keep doing their part. The B117 variant, the other variants that we’ve seen around the globe -- we still know that they can’t pass person-to-person if we wear our masks, we socially distance and we wash our hands.

“We still know how to beat these viruses and these variants of this virus if we continue to do that, but we are in a race to get these vaccines into arms, and that’s why the resources in that Michigan COVID recovery plan are so crucial in this moment. It’s a race, and we want to continue leading in this race, and we need to get those resources there.”

‘Fragile’ success

Even though Michigan has made obvious progress in slowing the spread of the virus, Whitmer is urging caution.

“Just as it has been these past 11 months, our success at this point is fragile,” Whitmer said.

“We know how to slow the spread, and it’s the same thing Michiganders have been doing so well for the past year to slow the spread of the virus and bring our curve down last spring and in the fall,” Khaldun said.

Reopening Michigan

So far this month, Michigan has reopened restaurants with COVID-19 safety restrictions in place and allowed high school contact sports to resume playing.

Next, Whitmer and the state are setting their eyes on returning to in-person learning. Last week, the governor reiterated her recommendation that all school districts have as much in-person instruction as possible available by March 1.

“The value of in-person learning, however, for our kids, is immeasurable, and we’ve got to do everything we can to get them back safety in the classroom so they get the education they need,” Whitmer said.

“We also know that in-person learning can be done safely, and in many school districts across the state, this is already happening,” Khaldun said.

Vaccinations

Michigan announced some major updates to its COVID-19 vaccine strategy, including changes for food processing, agricultural and mortuary service workers and some people age 60 and up.

Starting immediately, mortuary service workers who routinely work with infectious materials, will be able to be vaccinated as part of group 1A, the state announced.

MDHHS announced 41 federally qualified health centers across the state will start receiving doses to help vaccinate residents age 65 and older.

Now, providers with specific plans to remove barriers to access across the state will also be allowed to request vaccines for people age 60 and up, the state announced.

MDHHS announced workers in food processing and agricultural settings will be able to get vaccinated as of March 1.


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