Michigan’s new COVID-19 cases nearly double over 14 day span

The seven-day moving average for new COVID-19 cases in Michigan has increased 92% over the past two weeks. The surge in cases has coincided with the easing of social distancing restrictions, specifically lifting the indoor dining ban and the reopening of public schools for in-person instruction.

Michigan’s COVID-19 cases have been steadily increasing for over a month now. The 92% increase from Mar. 8 to Mar. 21 is by far the highest increase in the U.S., besting Hawaii’s 56% increase and Minnesota and West Virginia’s 49% increase.

As of Monday morning the new daily case average is 3,040 cases. There have been at least 691,086 cases of COVID-19 and 16,897 COVID-19 related deaths in Michigan since the start of the pandemic

One of the reasons being speculated for the concerning rise in cases in Michigan is new more contagious strains of COVID-19 spreading in the state. According to the CDC, Michigan currently ranks second in the U.S. for confirmed cases of the b.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 first discovered in the U.K., with at least 725 confirmed cases statewide.

The combination of more contagious strains of COVID-19 and the lifting of restrictions is facilitating what will likely be a fourth wave of COVID-19 in Michigan. 

Dr. Nigel Paneth, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics and pediatrics at Michigan State University, spoke to ABC News last week about his concerns with the uptick in new cases.

“There is clearly an unfortunate trend now for the general public to relax distancing measures and for authorities to relax public health restrictions,” said Paneth. “This is a real concern in light of the continued evolution of new strains of the COVID virus.”

Last week amid the surge in cases, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Michigan officials against lifting restrictions.

“I am telling them, just hold off for a bit,” Fauci said. “Just hang on a little longer until you get the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated.”

The latest data indicates that 2,192,421 Michigan residents have been vaccinated. This puts the state’s vaccination rate at 27.1%, well below the 70% to 85% herd immunity threshold said to be necessary for safe reopening.

Michigan officials are putting much of their faith in the vaccine for stopping the spread of COVID-19. The hope is that with more of the population being vaccinated, this wave will result in less severe cases and deaths from complications of the virus than previous periods of high transmission.

Dawn Misra, department chair and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, echoed this sentiment in an interview last week.

“It is possible that the deaths within this group will not be as bad … since we did reach them with some vaccines,” Misra said. “And we do have slightly better treatments available.”

Nearly 500,000 new doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in the state within the next week. This accumulation of doses coincides with Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s plan to open up access to vaccinations for all people with disabilities on Mar. 22, and all adults 16 and older on April 5.

To accommodate the high demand for the vaccine, sports venues such as Ford Field are working with the federal government to become large vaccination sites. Starting this week Ford Field will open from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week for eight weeks under the federal government’s vaccination pilot program.