3 data points that show Michigan’s 3-week pause is likely to be extended

Current restrictions expire Wednesday

Coronavirus -- SARS-CoV-2 (AP)

Key Michigan COVID-19 data points show the state’s “three-week pause” is likely to be extended before it ends this week.

UPDATE: Michigan extends COVID-19 restrictions for 12 days to gauge Thanksgiving impact

Last week, Michigan saw a sharp increase in reported deaths in Michigan -- and across the U.S. Record -setting daily deaths with record hospitalizations heading into the holiday -- not where we want to be, obviously.

Related: Michigan hospitals urge state to extend COVID restrictions ‘to see meaningful change’

Michigan’s 3-week pause ends on Wednesday at 12:01 a.m., and no extension has been announced -- yet. But looking at the current COVID-19 data, it appears likely that restrictions will be extended in some form. Just look at the data.

Test positivity still increasing

When Gov. Whitmer announced the 3-week pause right before Thanksgiving, she stated a goal of lowering the positive test rate to 3% -- a benchmark the state has had since the start fo the pandemic.

More: How to track Michigan COVID-19 data

Entering the last few days of the pause -- the positive test rate has actually increased -- breaking 16% in a single day (Dec. 2), and 14% in a 7-day average. Consider that goal out of reach.

Testing has increased a bit over the last two weeks, but is pretty steady around 46,000 diagnostic tests per day. The last time the state reported positivity rates this high was in April, when only about 7,000 tests were being reported per day.

Michigan testing data as of Dec. 5, 2020. (MDHHS)

Hospitalizations still high

Hospitalizations have slowed down, but are still increasing. Many hospitals are already near capacity. And flu season is only just starting.

Looking at data during the pause, total hospitalizations have increased from 3,772 to 4,113, and inpatients on ventilators increased from 396 to 513. The trend is still increasing.

Michigan hospitalization data as of Dec. 4, 2020. (WDIV)

Hospital capacity in the state has decreased from around 74% to 78% of beds occupied statewide as of Dec. 3. Many hospitals in the state are close to full capacity.

Cases still high, deaths catching up

While new daily cases have slowed down in the last two weeks, they still remain near record highs -- and deaths are now catching up.

The 7-day average for new daily cases has leveled off for the most part -- for now -- but they haven’t really decreased. They’ve just stopped growing as quickly as we saw in late October and early November, when the 7-day case average exploded, increasing from 854 on Oct. 1 to 7,181 on Nov. 22.

Michigan 7-day moving case average. (WDIV)

And just as expected, deaths have now started to catch up to the case surge. The 7-day death average is nearing its highest point ever -- at 115 deaths per day as of Saturday.

Yes, many of the deaths are being added from the state’s Vital Records review process, but it doesn’t really make a difference. It just means the person didn’t die in the previous 24 hours.

Michigan 7-day death moving death average. (WDIV)

Bottom line

It would be surprising if Michigan didn’t extend restrictions. Could they be different? Sure. Maybe restaurants will reopen -- or high schoolers will be allowed to return to school. But lifting everything put in place three weeks ago seems extremely unlikely.

It appears the 3-week pause has succeeded in perhaps slowing growth in some key areas -- but the state is looking for decreases in these key areas, and we aren’t seeing that in the data yet.

We’ll likely start to see the impact of Thanksgiving this week, which we know will result in COVID-19 cases across the country, as millions ignored CDC and state health guidance and traveled for the holiday.

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About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.