Data: Michigan seeing highest COVID case numbers in US

State leads nation in daily new COVID-19 cases, spread

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 "severe risk" of COVID spread, according to data. Photo courtesy of Covid Act Now's website. -- Nov. 18, 2021 (Covid Act Now)

DETROIT – Michigan is once again leading the nation with the highest number of daily new COVID-19 cases, and experts don’t see an end in sight anytime soon.

Coronavirus infections have been on the rise throughout the state since July. Not all health experts agree that Michigan is seeing its fourth COVID “surge” right now, but the latest numbers certainly rival those seen during the surges earlier this spring and last fall.

There is a noticeable difference this time around, however: The number of infections have risen consistently over the last four months, a sustained growth, as opposed to spiking and then dropping over a shorter span of time. With that said, health experts say the numbers are only going to increase from here as people move inside during the cold winter months, and as people gather for the holidays.

Since it’s only mid-November, it’s unclear when exactly the number of COVID infections will peak during this surge. The highest number of daily new cases reported during the surge last fall was 9,799 cases on Nov. 11, 2020. The highest number of daily new cases reported this spring was 8,955 on April 16.

So far this month, the state has reported an average of 4,000 new cases each day, and just this week has surpassed averages of more than 7,000 new cases per day. Michigan was reporting similar numbers ahead of the surge last fall/winter.

Though we don’t know how much worse this surge will get, we do know that, right now, Michigan is seeing some of the worst coronavirus spread in the U.S.

Let’s break down the numbers as of Nov. 17.

Daily new COVID cases in Michigan

According to data compiled by Covid Act Now -- a group comprised of technologists, epidemiologists, health experts and public policy leaders that monitors and identifies each state’s risk level for a COVID-19 outbreak -- Michigan is reporting more new COVID cases each day compared to any other state.

As of Nov. 17, the state is reporting an average of 71.8 new COVID-19 cases each day per every 100,000 residents -- an average of about 7,174 daily new cases over the past week, according to Covid Act Now.

Update: As of Nov. 18, Michigan has been moved into a “severe” risk category by Covid Act Now due to another rise in its daily new cases. As of Nov. 18, the group says Michigan is reporting 84 daily new COVID cases per every 100,000 residents. It is the only state currently considered to be at a severe risk for COVID spread.

The group considers the 71.8 figure, and anything between 25-75, to be at a “critical” level; anything above 75 is considered “extreme.” Data shows that the state entered the critical level in September, and the numbers have been rising since.

The state has entered the extreme category as of Nov. 18.

From Covid Act Now: Over the last week, Michigan has averaged 8,393 new confirmed cases per day (84.0 for every 100,000 residents). Image courtesy of Screenshot retrieved on Nov. 18, 2021. (Covid Act Now)

Covid Act Now’s data largely aligns with data reported by the state: Over the last week, Michigan officials have reported an average of 6,171 new virus cases each day.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) said Tuesday that the state’s case rate is at 416.3 COVID cases per million residents, an increase from two weeks ago, when the rate was 340.4 new cases per million residents.

According to MDHHS, all counties in Michigan are currently at a high transmission level.

Trailing just behind Michigan’s daily new case rate are Minnesota and New Mexico, reporting 70 and 66 daily new cases per every 100,000 residents, respectively.

Related: Cases surge in new COVID hot spots of Michigan, Minnesota

Michigan’s COVID infection rate

Michigan has one of the highest infection rates in the nation, according to Covid Act Now.

The state is tied with New Hampshire and Indiana, who all currently have a virus infection rate of 1.19 -- meaning that every person infected with COVID-19 is infecting, on average, 1.19 other people. The research group identifies this infection rate as “high,” and anything above 1.4 is “critical.”

Covid Act Now says that this infection rate indicates that the “total number of active cases in Michigan is growing.” As of Monday, Nov. 15, the state reported an average of 139,000 active COVID cases.

Connecticut, Vermont and Rhode Island aren’t far behind the three leading states, each reporting a COVID infection rate of 1.17, 1.16 and 1.16, respectively.

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 "severe risk" of COVID spread, according to data. Photo courtesy of Covid Act Now's website. -- Nov. 18, 2021 (Covid Act Now)

Positive COVID test rate in Michigan

Michigan’s positive virus test rate is reportedly the third worst in the U.S. as of Nov. 17, coming in behind South Dakota and Nebraska at 14.3%, according to Covid Act Now. The group says that the figure “indicates that testing in Michigan is limited and that most cases may go undetected.”

However, data reported from the state shows that the positive test rate is actually higher.

Data reported by Michigan officials shows that, over the last seven days, the state as a whole has averaged a positive COVID test rate of 16.85% -- an increase of nearly 3% since last week. This number still does not beat out South Dakota’s positive test rate of 20.7%, which is the worst in the nation.

The MDHHS says that four regions in Michigan have a positivity rate above 20%.

Michigan’s current test rate falls into the “high” category by Covid Act Now. Anything between 20%-40% is considered critical -- and the state hasn’t seen those numbers since the onset of the pandemic in 2020.

Michigan COVID hospitalizations

More and more people are being hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Michigan.

The number of individuals hospitalized with a COVID-19 infection has steadily risen since the end of August. According to Covid Act Now, 82% of Michigan’s ICU beds are being used by COVID patients, 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.”

New data from the MDHHS shows that emergency department visits, hospital admissions and hospital census area are all on the rise. Officials say that as of Nov. 17, 7.5% of emergency department visits are from COVID patients -- an increase from 5.8% last week. The overall volume of COVID patients in intensive care has reportedly increased by 13% in the last week.

The state says that all regions in Michigan are seeing a ratio of more than 200 people per million residents hospitalized with COVID. Admissions have reportedly been rising for nearly every age group.

From MDHHS: Hospitalization trends from March 1, 2021 through Nov. 14, 2021, confirmed positive by region. "The census of COVID+ patients have increased across all regions. Region 2S had the fastest growth this week," the MDHHS report reads. "Regions 2S, 3, and 6 now have greater than 300 people hospitalized per Million population." -- Nov. 17, 2021 (Michigan Department of Health and Human Services)

See more virus hospitalization data and trends for Michigan right here.

Breakthrough cases, deaths in Michigan

Some people are becoming infected with COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated for the virus, but that doesn’t mean that the vaccines aren’t effective or that they aren’t having an important impact on community spread.

At the beginning of 2021 when vaccines were first being administered, breakthrough cases were uncommon -- about 11% of individuals infected with COVID earlier this year were fully vaccinated. Since June, that number has increased to about 20%.

According to data released Wednesday, the MDHHS says that between Jan. 15 and Nov. 5, there have been a total of 77,985 breakthrough COVID-19 cases, 2,009 breakthrough hospitalizations and 944 breakthrough deaths.

Those numbers are nowhere near as high as case and death rates among the unvaccinated: Officials say between Jan. 15 and Nov. 5, there have been 573,160 COVID cases, 15,066 hospitalizations and 6,760 deaths among individuals who were not fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 Vaccination Breakthrough Cases and Deaths. "Trends over time show that both case and death rates among the Fully Vaccinated are lower than the Not Fully vaccinated rates in Michigan," reads a report from MDHHS on Nov. 16, 2021. "The proportionof breakthrough cases and deaths among all cases and deaths has shown some increases as more people become fully vaccinated." Chart courtesy of the MDHHS report. (Michigan Department of Health and Human Services)

Dr. Adnan Munkarah, executive vice president for Henry Ford Health System, reported Tuesday that 69% of the patients admitted to Henry Ford are unvaccinated for COVID. Health officials also said that majority of people who are in the intensive care unit or on a ventilator are unvaccinated.

MDHHS says that the “risk of infection and death remains significantly lower among the fully vaccinated.” Still, there has been evidence that the effectiveness of the available COVID vaccines wanes over time, as antibodies naturally do. Hence, the push for booster shots -- now for all individuals, and not just those who are more vulnerable to infection and serious disease.

A study from drugmaker Pfizer found that a COVID booster shot restored their vaccine’s efficacy to about 95% in vaccinated individuals.

More: Pfizer asks FDA to OK COVID-19 booster shots for all adults

Children between the ages of 5 and 11 years old are now eligible to get vaccinated for COVID.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 16, 70.2% of Michigan residents ages 16 years old and older have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, while 61.3% of that age group are considered fully vaccinated.

Related: COVID cases are spiking in Michigan: Why haven’t state officials taken new action?

COVID cases and deaths trends by Michigan county

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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.