MICHIGAN — According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Michigan leads the U.S. in most COVID cases. Its website shows that Michigan has 365 cases per every 100,000 people, surpassing other high COVID case states New York and New Jersey.
“We have to keep watching these numbers. We have to keep doing our part, masking up, washing our hands, and social distancing. These are all really important,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a CNN interview. “So, we were really aggressive. We were able to keep our COVID numbers down.”
Early in the pandemic, in March 2020 and into last summer, Michigan was one of the top states with fewest COVID cases. However, over the past several weeks, doctors and health officials said they’ve noticed that cases have skyrocketed.
“It seems like we’ve done things in a measured way, so what the heck is happening? I think we’ve been asking ourselves that a lot,” said Dr. Andrew Jameson with Mercy Health. “I do think it’s a few different variables. I think the number one variable probably is the B.1.1.7 variant just really taking hold, and we have seen this spread rapidly.”
Dr. Jameson, who’s the medical director of infection prevention and control at Mercy Health, said the new U.K. B.1.1.7 variant first appeared in February, and officials noticed that it was more contagious than the strain they saw last year.
“This particular variant really has the ability to latch on better to our receptors,” Dr. Jameson added. “So, it is more potent in terms of its ability to transmit.”
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said they believe the rise in COVID cases stems from a number of outbreaks among the younger age groups and youth sports.
“Part of this is because older adults--many of them have already been vaccinated, but we are especially seeing outbreaks in youth athletics and in high school-age adolescents,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, senior public health physician at MDHHS. “Some of these seem to be related not to activities on the field, not to transmission on the field or in classrooms but actually to social gatherings and social events that are happening around sports.”
So, Dr. Bagdasarian recommends keeping gatherings small.
And because of the vaccines, she believes "the end is in sight." After April 5, anyone over the age of 16 can get a vaccine statewide. However, in order to reach herd immunity, it’s important to wear masks, especially when it’s tough.
“Yesterday morning I had a restaurant owner asking if we could lift the curfew because of the Michigan game last night,” Governor Whitmer said. “Unfortunately Michigan didn’t win. But, the point still is there’s a lot of push and pull. What we need to do is double down on our masking and get more people vaccinated.”