A variety of factors -- new Covid mutations, eased restrictions, youth sports, pandemic fatigue -- are behind an alarming rise in virus diagnoses and hospitalizations statewide. Deaths aren't up, but doctors and health departments warn against complacency as the pandemic stretches into year two.
"Now is not the time to let our guard down ... with more contagious variants emerging and vaccines becoming widely available," says Dr. Gary Roth, chief medical officer at Michigan Health and Hospital Association.
Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, posts Saturday on social media: "Please be aware many remain at risk."
Michigan has the fifth-highest case rate per capita in the country as of Friday night, behind New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
The state health department lists 1,765 hospitalized adult Covid patients as of Friday, plus another 157 believed to have the virus. Nearly 400 were in intensive care, including 142 Covid patients on ventilators.
Additionally, Michigan pediatric wards have 13 confirmed Covid victims and five considered probable.
Hospitalizations among unvaccinated Michiganians aged 40-49 skyrocketed 800% from March 1-23, Roth's association says. The rate climbed 633% for unvaccinated residents in their 30s.
Bracing for fuller hospitals
The number of hospitalized Covid patients could top 2,500 next week, says Jim Lee, vice president of data policy and analytics at the association, according to Crain's Detroit Business. It adds:
"This is one of the few cases where I really hope I'm wrong in terms of what the data is telling me," Lee said Friday during a conference call with reporters on Zoom.
Two Metro Detroit hospital networks -- Beaumont and Ascension -- this week restored visitor limits.
On a brighter note, more than 13,000 people received shots from Tuesday through Friday at Ford Field in Detroit, a new federal vaccination site. Statewide, 2.5 million people have at least one shot -- 31% of those eligible -- and 1.4 million of them are fully protected.
Vaccine access opened this week to all residents age 50 and older, plus younger people with certain medical conditions or disabilities. Everyone 16 and older qualifies for a shot as of April 5.
Still, daily totals of newly confirmed cases are similar to last fall's levels, the Department of Health and Human Services says in a report this week.This week's figure -- 18,058 new cases from Sunday through Friday -- is an 11-week high. Friday's number was 5,030 freshly confirmed diagnoses.
Cases rose in all regions and among most age groups, according to the Lansing agency.
St. Clair County surge
St. Clair County issued a public health alert Friday, citing a "rapid and concerning acceleration of Covid-19." Its health agency counts 1,080 new cases in the last six days.
In Detroit, the DIA is shut through Friday after three staff members test positive.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she doesn't plan renewed health safety rules, but hasn't ruled them out. "Perhaps that's a tool that we might need to use," she said Thursday during a virtual forum hosted by the Michigan Chronicle. "But I'm hoping that it's not, and that’s why we’re reiterating everyone has a personal responsibility to do what we need to do to keep ourselves safe."
Here's how Covid has spread steadily in the past six weeks. This past week's figure of 27,758 new cases is the highest weekly total for new cases in 14 weeks:
Feb. 14-20: 5,695 new cases
Feb. 21-27: 7,662
Feb. 28-March 6: 8,473
March 7-13: 11,383
March 14-20: 17,374
March 21-27: 22,758