Health officials concerned by COVID spike, fear 'second wave'

Posted at 3:38 PM, Oct 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-13 22:22:05-04

LANSING, Mich. — COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been trending upward in Michigan, and public health officials urge residents to be vigilant and take preventative measures.

A surge in cases could overwhelm hospital systems, officials said in a news release Tuesday.

“Michiganders did a great job of bringing our cases down after a surge in the spring,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “Basic things like wearing masks, maintaining physical distance from others and washing hands worked. Yet as the colder months and flu season have arrived, we now see a concerning jump in our cases – a trend we can reverse if we all take this seriously and follow best practices to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Gathering indoors more frequently because of cooler weather increases the risk of community spread.

In addition to rising cases across the state, more tests are coming back positive and more residents are being hospitalized compared to previous weeks.

Michigan currently has 89 daily cases per million people, 3.6 percent of tests are positive and there are 698 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

During the same point last week, there were 81.6 daily cases per million people, 3.4 percent of tests were positive and there were 586 coronavirus hospitalizations. The stretch indicates the most consistent increase over a 2-week period since April.

In Kent County, that number for returned positive tests is slightly higher than the state average at roughly 4%.

"The stretch of time over the past two weeks has probably been our greatest average daily count for a longtime. So it definitely causes some concern on our part," said Supervising Epidemiologist Brian Hartl with the Kent County Health Department.

The increase is also impacting older people more heavily, with a steady increase with the 70+ age group seeing a dramatic uptick. There have also been outbreaks identified as assisted living facilities.

"It’s kind of shifting a little bit back to what we were seeing back to the early part of the pandemic in April and May when a lot of older individuals were becoming infected. So that causes us some concern," said Hartl.

Officials are urging everyone to continue social distancing, proper hand washing and wearing a mask. The colder weather may push gatherings indoors, where it could be transmitted more easily.

“At the height of the COVID-19 response in Michigan, our frontline hospital workers were working around the clock to treat COVID-19 patients,” said Brian Peters, chief executive officer of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association. “As we see cases on the rise again and more hospital beds with patients than we have in weeks, we must remember what mask wearing and social distancing does: It prevents cases, it prevents hospitalizations and it prevents deaths.”