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Michigan now at ‘high risk’ for coronavirus outbreak, research shows

State moved from 'medium' to 'high' risk for COVID-19 outbreak in less than one week

A screenshot of Covid Act Now's map of the United States and colored according to their "Covid Risk Level." Much like the rest of the country, Michigan is experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases and is now labeled at "high risk" for a virus outbreak, according to data from Covid Act Now. Photo courtesy of Covid Act Now's website. -- July 8, 2020
A screenshot of Covid Act Now's map of the United States and colored according to their "Covid Risk Level." Much like the rest of the country, Michigan is experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases and is now labeled at "high risk" for a virus outbreak, according to data from Covid Act Now. Photo courtesy of Covid Act Now's website. -- July 8, 2020 (Covid Act Now)

Michigan has now been labeled at “high risk” for a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak as cases increase across the state, according to data from Covid Act Now.

The group of technologists, epidemiologists, health experts and public policy leaders at Covid Act Now are identifying each state’s risk level for the spread of COVID-19 -- which have been rapidly worsening as COVID-19 cases increase throughout the U.S.

Michigan’s identified risk level has gone from “on track to contain COVID” on June 18, to “experiencing controlled disease growth” on July 2 and is now labeled at “high risk” for an outbreak as of Wednesday.

A screenshot of Covid Act Now's map of the United States and colored according to their "Covid Risk Level." Much like the rest of the country, Michigan is experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases and is now labeled at "high risk" for virus spread, according to data from Covid Act Now. Photo courtesy of Covid Act Now's website. -- July 8, 2020
A screenshot of Covid Act Now's map of the United States and colored according to their "Covid Risk Level." Much like the rest of the country, Michigan is experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases and is now labeled at "high risk" for virus spread, according to data from Covid Act Now. Photo courtesy of Covid Act Now's website. -- July 8, 2020 (Covid Act Now)

The state’s recent demotion to a high risk level is largely attributed to an increasing infection rate and a decrease in contact tracing.

As of Wednesday Michigan has a high infection rate of 1.14 -- meaning each individual infected with COVID-19 is infecting 1.14 other people. The state’s infection rate was a low 0.88 on July 2 and an even lower 0.85 in mid-June.

As the state’s COVID-19 cases increase at a more rapid pace compared to recent weeks, the amount of contact tracing conducted in Michigan is decreasing. According to Covid Act Now, as of Wednesday the state is contact tracing only about 45 percent of new cases within 48 hours of infection -- which health officials say is insufficient to contain the virus. Experts recommend that at least 90 percent of new COVID-19 cases are traced within 48 hours to contain the virus.

When a state’s contact tracing falls below 20 percent it is considered “low,” and when it falls below 7 percent it is considered “critical,” according to the research.

Covid Act Now’s research shows that Michigan is still doing well with COVID-19 testing. The data indicates that Michigan has conducted widespread and aggressive COVID-19 testing and has a low positive test rate of 2.3 percent. However that rate has been slowly increasing in recent weeks. The rate will be considered “medium” instead of low if it surpasses 3 percent.

Michigan hospitals can also “likely handle a new wave of COVID” as current ICU vacancies are abundant enough to “absorb” a new wave of infected patients.

Covid Act Now does break data down by the county level, but does not have sufficient information to establish risk levels for every county in Michigan. Based on the data they do have, risk levels have been identified for a number of counties mostly in the southern half of the lower peninsula.

A map of Michigan counties and their assigned COVID-19 risk levels from research led by Covid Act Now. Risk levels have not been assigned to all Michigan counties due to insufficient data. Photo courtesy of Covid Act Now's website.
A map of Michigan counties and their assigned COVID-19 risk levels from research led by Covid Act Now. Risk levels have not been assigned to all Michigan counties due to insufficient data. Photo courtesy of Covid Act Now's website. (Covid Act Now)

A number of Michigan counties have moved backward into “high” or “critical” risk levels for a COVID-19 outbreak since last week.

Counties such as Alpena, St. Clair, Lapeer, Livingston and Ionia have been labeled at a “critical” risk level due to a “high risk” of hospitals becoming overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients -- also usually accompanied by a high infection rate in the county.

  • Covid Act Now recently helped create a COVID-19 risk level map broken down by counties in collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute and dozens more researchers and public health officials. Click here to take a look.

Covid Act Now previously said Michigan’s COVID-19 preparedness met or exceeded international standards across the group’s “key metrics” back in June, and just “met” international standards last week. Now the state’s pandemic preparedness is considered “well below international standards.”

The data does not predict that Michigan hospitals will become overloaded within the next 30 days if the current reopening plans are maintained. Covid Act Now still suggests that the state reopens in a “slow and phased fashion,” which Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has promoted throughout the pandemic.

Regions across Michigan have been slowly reopening in recent weeks under Whitmer’s MI Safe Start Plan, but the governor says she is prepared to close parts of the state again if the threat of COVID-19 continues to worsen.

There are currently only four states on track to contain COVID according to the data: Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Michigan is one of 24 states at high risk for a COVID-19 outbreak. There are 16 states labeled at a medium risk and six states have been labeled as experiencing an “active or imminent outbreak.”

Among these “critical” states are Florida, Texas and Arizona who have all reported an increase of 60,000, 49,000 and 27,000 COVID-19 cases in the last week, respectively.

READ MORE: COVID-19 in the US: Tracking states with the most cases, deaths on July 7


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