Michigan is now the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, registering the highest number of cases by population and the highest rates of Covid-19-related hospitalizations, with health experts linking the surge to the spread of variants of the virus and relaxed social-distancing restrictions.
Michigan’s health department reported 8,015 new Covid-19 cases Wednesday, with Sarah Lyon-Callo, director of Michigan’s Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health, declaring case rates have risen 375% since Feb. 19, from 190 per million to 491 per million.
The health department reported 30 deaths Wednesday and 3,549 adults were hospitalized due to the coronavirus as of Wednesday morning, with 16 Michigan hospitals operating at over 90% capacity.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky called for stronger mitigation strategies” Wednesday, including restricting youth sports and indoor dining, while also noting the CDC has sent teams to Michigan to help state health officials assess the outbreak.
Dr. Nicholas Gilpin of Michigan’s Beaumont Health System told PBS that relaxed restrictions are “one-half of the equation,” with a surge in Covid-19 variants, specifically the one first identified in the United Kingdom (the B.1.1.7 variant) being the other main factor contributing to the dangerous spike.
Michigan has 14.5% of all confirmed cases (1,817 of 12,505 cases) of the U.K. variant identified in the U.S., according to Lyon-Callo.
17.9%. That was Michigan’s Covid-19 positivity rate from Tuesday’s tests, the highest such mark since April 2020, and a 348% increase from just six weeks ago.
Despite the alarming rise in Covid-related metrics, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has resisted instituting more rigorous restrictions. In a CNN interview Tuesday night, she said it’s “very possible” Michigan could fully reopen this summer if upward of 70% of the population is vaccinated. On Monday, the state opened vaccine eligibility to everyone over age 16, but less than 23% of Michiganders had been vaccinated as of Wednesday morning. Whitmer attributed the recent rise in cases and hospitalizations to new variants. “We were able to really push our infection rate down so low for such a long period of time. Now that variants are present here, we have lots of people that don’t have antibodies because we were successful,” Whitmer asserted. In addition to the B.1.1.7 mutation, the variants first identified in South Africa and Brazil have also been detected in Michigan. The governor said she is “very concerned” about the rise in cases among young children and teenagers, stating it’s “one area that we’ve got to do more in.” Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy told the Detroit Free Press Wednesday that “every Michigander has a personal responsibility to do their part by wearing a mask, washing hands and maintaining social distancing to help us slow the spread of this virus.”
At a White House press briefing Wednesday, Walensky announced that the U.K.variant is now the dominant strain in the U.S. Over the weekend, Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of President Biden’s coronavirus advisory board, warned that some health experts believe the U.K. mutation infects children more easily than previous strains.
“This B.1.1.7 variant infects kids very readily,” Osterholm told Meet the Press. “Unlike the previous strains of the virus, we didn’t see children under eighth grade get infected often, or they were not frequently very ill… B.1.1.7 turns that on its head.”
U.K. Coronavirus Variant Is Now The Dominant Strain In U.S., CDC Says (Forbes)
Biden Covid Advisor Warns’ Game-Changing’ Variant Infects Kids’ Very Readily’ And Could Spur New Lockdowns (Forbes)
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