LANSING, Michigan (AP) – Michigan, which not long ago had one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country, is facing an alarming rise that some experts fear may be a national omen.
In what US public health authorities have been warning for months could happen across the country, the resurgence is being driven by relaxed restrictions., a more infectious variant and pandemic fatigue.
While vaccinations in Michigan are helping to protect the elderly and other vulnerable people, the spike is increasing hospitalizations among younger adults and forcing face-to-face instruction in some schools to stop.
“It is a stark reminder that this virus is still very real. It can come roaring back if we let our guard down, ”said Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who does not plan to tighten restrictions on indoor dining, sports and other activities that have eased in recent months.
Last year, Michigan saw some of the nation’s fiercest resistance to lockdowns, including armed demonstrations. at the state capitol and an alleged right wing plot to kidnap the governor.
Whitmer said Thursday at a Michigan Chronicle event that this increase is different from last fall and spring in part because of the vaccine, which has been given to nearly two-thirds of residents 65 and older, those older. risk of dying. COVID-19 hospitalizations, although higher in recent weeks, remain below the December peak.
Still, the spread of the coronavirus is concerning at a time when many adults have yet to receive a dose.
Over the past two weeks, Michigan’s seven-day average of new cases per day has risen 122%, the biggest change in the U.S., to 3,753 from 1,687, the biggest jump in gross as well. The state’s seven-day per capita case rate is the third highest, behind New York and New Jersey. Michigan reported more than 5,200 new cases Thursday, the most in more than three months. The mortality rate has remained stable.
“It’s very troublesome and very concerning,” said Dr. Dawn Misra, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Michigan State University.
He cautioned that the trend should not be attributed solely to a variant that has been identified more in Michigan than in all but one state, Florida, and noted that the delays and disparities in the amount of genetic testing being done on the virus in the US They make difficult comparisons.
“We are doing a lot of things that lead to increased risk. That’s where it comes from, ”said Misra, who urged health officials to emphasize strategies such as double masking.
Nationwide, COVID-19 has killed more than 545,000 people. With the vaccine launch hitting its pace, deaths have plummeted to less than 1,000 a day on average, from a peak of more than 3,400 in mid-January. New cases have also plummeted, but their average remains worrying at more than 57,000 a day, and the trend is reversing in some states.
Michigan will soon require periodic testing of all teenage athletes amid outbreaks that occurred after a months-long ban on contact sports was lifted. Approximately 100 teams are out of state boys and girls basketball tournaments.
And some schools are temporarily closing or delaying their long-awaited reopenings.
The Lansing School District, which has 10,000 students, had planned to resume face-to-face learning for the first time next week, beginning with grades four through six. But the reopening was postponed until April 12, after spring break, due to increased virus cases in the community.
“We’re back to where we were right after Christmas with some of our numbers,” Superintendent Sam Sinicropi said Thursday. “I understand the importance of children and staff being present. But we are going to make the call because of what is happening in our area. “
Keith Elementary School in the Walled Lake District suspended in-person instruction last week due to the suddenly troubling numbers there.
“It’s one of the things that keeps me awake at night. We look at the numbers as we would see the stock market, ”Superintendent Ken Gutman said in a YouTube video.
One of Michigan’s largest high schools, Utica Eisenhower in Macomb County, suspended in-person classes Tuesday through April 19, after 40 students tested positive and more than 400 were quarantined as a result.
“It’s certainly been a yo-yo ride,” said Susan Milosavljevic, whose daughter, Natasha, is a third-year student. “We are not mad at the school. They have been taking every precaution, making sure the students wear masks. Unfortunately, there may be some who test positive. “
White reported from Detroit. AP data journalist Nicky Forster in New York contributed.