Data: Michigan COVID cases finally declining, still leading nation

Key metrics improve following state’s months-long virus surge

A screenshot of Covid Act Now's map of the U.S. with states color-coded according to their "Covid Risk Level." Michigan is labeled as at "very high risk" of COVID spread -- one of only three states under that category -- according to data. Photo courtesy of Covid Act Now's website. -- May 4, 2021 (Covid Act Now)

Though the numbers are still high throughout Michigan, the state’s COVID-19 surge is finally slowing down after a months-long spike.

But Michigan’s count of daily new virus cases is still leading the nation by a slight margin, and vaccinations -- which experts say are the most important tool to control the virus -- have been slowing across the state.

While the data is starting to trend in the right direction, the state still has a ways to go before “normalcy” can be restored.

Just two weeks ago, Michigan was identified as the only state in the country at “severe” risk for COVID-19 spread by research group Covid Act Now.

Starting in February of this year, Michigan’s COVID spread worsened rapidly, causing COVID cases and hospitalizations to surge -- sometimes beyond numbers recorded at the height of the pandemic last spring. In mid-April, Covid Act Now increased the state’s risk level from “very high” to severe as Michigan’s virus spread became the worst in the U.S.

Now Michigan is one of only three states labeled at very high risk (colored red in the map above) according to the group, which is a nonprofit comprised of technologists, epidemiologists, health experts and public policy leaders who have been monitoring and identifying each state’s risk level for COVID spread in real time since last year.

Let’s dive deeper into Michigan’s COVID data to see how it has improved.

Michigan’s daily new COVID cases

The rate of new COVID-19 cases being reported in Michigan each day has slowed in recent weeks, but it is still relatively high.

According to Covid Act Now, Michigan is reporting about 38.0 new COVID cases each day per every 100,000 residents -- or 3,791 new cases each day, on average -- as of Tuesday, May 4. With this number, the state continues to lead the nation with the highest count of daily new virus cases.

Toward the end of last month, the state’s daily case counts were far worse: In our last report on April 20, Michigan was reporting an average of 76.1 new COVID-19 cases each day per every 100,000 residents, according to Covid Act Now. The state peaked at 78.7 daily new cases per every 100,000 residents on April 13, the data shows.

Over the last week, Michigan has averaged 3,791 new confirmed cases per day (38.0 for every 100,000 residents). -- May 4, 2021 (Covid Act Now)

Covid Act Now’s data largely aligns with the data reported by the state of Michigan: According to data received by the state, Michigan has reported an average of 3,581 new COVID-19 cases each day over the last week (as of May 3).

On April 13, the state reported its highest 7-day moving average for daily cases this year: 7,014.

That average had rose steadily since reaching a low point in mid-February, and has been decreasing slowly since the April 13 peak.

While the state’s daily new case count is obviously decreasing, the group still considers the number of new cases being reported each day to be “dangerous.”

Michigan’s daily new COVID case rate is still the highest in the U.S., with several other states not far behind, including: Colorado with 29.6, Minnesota with 27.6, Pennsylvania with 24.9 and Delaware with 23.6 daily new COVID cases per every 100,000 residents.

Michigan’s virus infection rate

One metric that has improved significantly over the last few weeks is Michigan’s COVID-19 infection rate.

Infection rates typically align with the number of new virus cases being reported each day (as you can imagine), but they are a bit ahead of the curve: The infection rate often indicates whether case numbers will soon rise or fall.

Two weeks ago on April 20, while Michigan continued to report high virus case and hospitalization numbers, the state’s infection rate had actually already started to decline, indicating that cases would soon follow -- which they did.

As of May 4, Michigan’s COVID-19 infection rate is at 0.78 -- meaning that every person who contracts COVID is infecting, on average, 0.78 other people. Covid Act Now considers this number to be “low,” and says that because each person is “infecting less than one other person, the total number of current cases in Michigan is shrinking.”

On April 20, the state had an infection rate of 1.03. Michigan was leading the nation in mid-April with a high infection rate of 1.29. As of May 4, the state now ranks at 49th in the country in terms of highest infection rates.

States with the highest infection rates as of May 4 include Oregon, New Mexico and Washington, who each have rates of 1.06, 1.05 and 1.04, respectively. Two weeks ago, the highest rates were near 1.2.

Michigan’s positive COVID test rate

Another metric that has shown improvement in recent weeks is Michigan’s positive COVID-19 test rate -- but it is still high, and is still the highest in the U.S.

According to Covid Act Now, as of May 4, Michigan’s positive coronavirus test rate is 10.2 percent, which reportedly indicates that “testing in Michigan is limited and that most cases may go undetected.” Data reported by the state of Michigan shows a similar number: Over the last week, the state’s positive test rate has averaged about 10.69 percent (as of May 3), the state’s data shows.

Michigan’s positive test rate has been slowly declining since peaking at 15.5 percent on April 15, according to Covid Act Now’s data. However, the state’s 10.2 percent of positive tests is still considered “high” by the group, and indicates “insufficient testing.”

State health officials have previously pushed for a positive test rate of 3 percent or less, and Covid Act Now concurs, labeling test rates below 3 percent as “low.”

As of May 4, Michigan’s positive test rate is the highest in the nation. A positive test rate above 20 percent is considered “critical,” and the state hasn’t seen those numbers since the onset of the pandemic one year ago.

Other states with the highest positive COVID test rates are: South Dakota with 9.3 percent, Florida with 7.5 percent and West Virginia with 6.8 percent.

COVID hospitalizations in Michigan

COVID-19 hospitalizations have started to slowly decline throughout the state of Michigan, but the numbers are still high -- and according to Covid Act Now, the numbers are actually worse.

As of Monday, May 3, the state of Michigan reported that 3,012 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 788 of them in critical care and 513 of them on ventilators. Covid Act Now reports that, as of May 4, 85 percent of Michigan’s ICU beds are currently occupied, suggesting that “hospitals may not be well positioned to absorb a wave of new COVID infections without substantial surge capacity,” the report reads. “Caution is warranted.”

Two weeks ago on April 20, Covid Act Now reported that 84 percent of the state’s ICU beds were occupied, again indicating that health care systems could become overwhelmed. Several hospitals and medical systems at that time did reach critical capacity levels, urging the public to take action to slow the spread and decrease virus hospitalizations.

The research group identifies Michigan’s current number of COVID hospitalizations as “high.” Last month, the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations had reached an all time high for the entire pandemic, surpassing numbers reported last spring during the first virus wave.

Here’s a look at the state’s virus hospitalization trends, based on data reported by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services:

Michigan COVID-19 hospitalization data as of May 3, 2021. (WDIV)

Take a deeper dive into Michigan’s COVID hospitalization data right here.

Vaccines, vaccines, vaccines

All Michigan residents aged 16 and older are now eligible to get vaccinated for COVID-19 -- but that doesn’t mean everyone is getting their shot.

COVID-19 vaccine supply has finally met the demand in the state, and then some. Now, after prioritizing the most vulnerable populations to receive their vaccinations first, the rest of the state’s population is moving much slower to get inoculated.

The state of Michigan is reporting that more than 7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered as of Monday, May 3, with 50.4% of eligible residents having received at least one dose and with 38.9% of eligible residents considered fully vaccinated.

Those numbers have been rising at a slower rate in recent weeks as vaccine participation dwindles particularly in the city of Detroit and across the state.

In an effort to encourage people to get vaccinated against the virus, Michigan officials announced a reopening plan last week that lifts coronavirus restrictions based on the percentage of residents who are vaccinated.

Here’s how the plan works:

  • Step 1: Two weeks after 55% of Michiganders have gotten at least one shot, the state will allow in-person work for all sectors of business.
  • Step 2: Two weeks after 60% of Michiganders have gotten at least one shot, the state will increase indoor capacity and sports stadiums and indoor capacity at conference centers, banquet halls and funeral homes to 25%. It will also increase capacity at exercise facilities and gyms to 50% and lift the curfew on restaurants and bars.
  • Step 3: Two weeks after 65% of Michiganders have gotten at least one shot, the state will lift all indoor capacity limits and require only social distancing between parties, as well as further relax limits on residential social gatherings.
  • Step 4: Two weeks after 70% of Michiganders have gotten at least one shot, the state will lift the gatherings and face masks order so MDHSS won’t broadly mitigate it unless there are unanticipated circumstances (variants that resist the vaccine, etc.).

More: Michigan reaches 7 million COVID vaccine doses -- how close are we to first reopening goal?

Throughout the state’s months-long COVID surge, Michigan officials decided not to impose any new restrictions to slow virus spread, looking to vaccinations to help curb the spike instead. Health experts disagreed with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s plan, arguing that vaccinations would not immediately help slow rampant virus spread and would take weeks to benefit the state’s metrics.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 12 and 15 years old sometime within the week. Officials hope that vaccination numbers will rise in the state, and across the country, once younger populations become eligible to receive their shot.

Related: Why is it important for as many people as possible to get the COVID vaccine?

You can see Covid Act Now’s data for each state by clicking here.

LIVE BLOG: Tracking COVID-19 vaccines in Michigan: New openings, clinics, appointments

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.