Gov. Whitmer provides update amid Michigan COVID crisis

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a news conference Friday morning to provide an update on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as conditions worsen across the state.

The live stream for this event has ended.

From the news briefing:

Whitmer’s update comes as Michigan leads the nation in virus spread, reporting the highest COVID case rate of any state over the last week. Coronavirus infections have been rapidly increasing across the state since mid-February, nearing numbers last seen during the November surge and the onset of the pandemic.

The state is currently racing between COVID vaccinations and cases, but, unfortunately, the cases are winning: 63 of 83 Michigan counties saw double digit increases in positivity rates within the last week.

Last week, the CDC said that Michigan is leading the nation in new COVID-19 cases per population. As of April 2, the state of Michigan was leading the U.S. in daily new COVID cases, virus infection rates and positive COVID test rates, according to data from Covid Act Now. That still remains true as of April 9.

According to Covid Act Now, Michigan’s infection rate is 1.22 as of Friday -- meaning that every individual who contracts COVID is infecting, on average, 1.22 other people.

State COVID data also shows that the virus is spreading quickly among younger populations.

While those aged 20-39 years old have the highest case rates -- and are driving virus hospitalizations in Michigan -- K-12 schools top the list of coronavirus outbreak locations in the state. High schools are particularly problematic.

The surge in virus spread among school-aged children and teens prompted the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to urge Michigan to impose new restrictions to curb virus spread, specifically for indoor youth sports.

“I encourage communities to make adjustments to meet their unique needs and circumstances,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “For example, in areas of substantial or high community transmission, CDC guidance specifically suggests refraining from youth sports that are not outside and cannot be conducted at least six feet apart.”

According to state data, hospitalization rates are doubling every 12 to 14 days. At this rate, Michigan is quickly approaching the peaks seen in December and last spring. If the current trends continue, Michigan could exceed its previous highest levels of hospitalizations by next Monday.

Those numbers are alarming for younger age groups: According to the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, hospitalizations increased by 633 percent for adults ages 30-39 and by 800 percent for adults ages 40-49 between March 1 and March 23.

Hospital leaders in Michigan are sounding the alarm as they near capacity amid the virus surge.

Despite the surge, Michigan leaders have said that they do not intend to impose new restrictions, instead focusing on getting residents vaccinated to help slow the spread -- a plan that has proved controversial to many.

The last time Michigan saw a COVID-19 spike of this magnitude -- in October and November -- the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a pause that shut down indoor dining, gatherings and much more for more than two months. This time around, Whitmer instead said the focus will remain on mask wearing and vaccinations, setting a goal to vaccinate 100,000 Michigan residents each day.

It is unclear what exactly Gov. Whitmer plans to announce on Friday.

Related: Bill passed by Republican-controlled Senate would trigger restaurant restrictions in Michigan

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.