Less mask wearing, not enough vaccinated people and more contagious variants are driving an increase in COVID-19 infections over the past month, says the state’s top health official.
As of today, there are 901,683 confirmed cases and 19,902 deaths in Michigan. Between Saturday and Tuesday, there were 1,762 cases and 19 deaths. While daily COVID-19 cases have been rising in Michigan, the state’s two-week rate is lower than in all but three states.
Michigan on Friday reported an average of 431 new daily COVID-19 infections over three days, up 47% from the same period a week earlier.
“We know that more and more people are not wearing masks. We know we don’t have enough people who are fully vaccinated. And we also know that we have these more easily transmissible variants present here in Michigan, similar to what’s happening across the country, including the delta variant.” —Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, says she is concerned over the rising numbers.
“We know that more and more people are not wearing masks. We know we don’t have enough people who are fully vaccinated. And we also know that we have these more easily transmissible variants present here in Michigan, similar to what’s happening across the country, including the delta variant,” Khaldun says.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday resumed wearing a mask at indoor events, citing revised guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a recommendation from Khaldun. The CDC on Tuesday reversed course and recommended that even vaccinated people return to being masked indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.
According to the state’s sample sequencing, the delta variant accounts for less than 3% of the samples in the state, compared to more than 80% nationwide, Khaldun says.
“That is likely why we are not seeing the rate of rise and the type of surge that some of our southern states are seeing … but we certainly know that the delta variant is present here in Michigan, and it is likely more than what we have been able to sequence,” she says.
While the number of cases linked to the delta variant in Michigan are low — for now — compared to the alpha variant, Khaldun says she expects the state to follow the nationwide trend eventually.
Focus on Vaccine Access
In recent weeks there have been reports of breakthrough cases as well. Khaldun says the vaccines are safe and effective in preventing disease. According to data from January through mid-July, the state found about 7,700 breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated people but that’s less than 1% of people who got COVID-19 after being vaccinated. According to the state, 63% — or more than 5 million people — have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.
“And even if we do see these breakthrough cases, we believe that it is really decreasing the severity of disease, the likelihood of death and the need for people to be hospitalized,” Khaldun says.
While the MI Shot to Win vaccine lottery has only increased the number of inoculations by 1.5%, Khaldun says she is pleased with the state’s progress.
“Now we are focusing on making sure there’s access to vaccines across the state, that includes even coming into people’s homes if we need to,” Khaldun says. “… after the MI Shot to Win was announced, we actually did see an increase in the number of people seeking to get vaccinated, more than we would expect without that initial initiative. So we will continue to push and make sure people are getting access to the vaccine, and we are answering people’s questions if they still have them about the vaccine.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.