What's behind rising Michigan COVID cases?

Posted at 6:11 AM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 06:11:51-04

(WXYZ) — Nearly 2.5 million Michiganders now have at least one COVID shot, but the state continues to see rising cases showing the pandemic is not yet over.

Hospitalizations have also increased 50% since last week, mainly in the 50-59 age range. Why the sudden surge is happening is not entirely clear.

"We don’t know," said Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. "Our assumption is that many if not most of these are the variant which we know is significantly more transmissible.”

Across Michigan, there are now more than 1,094 confirmed cases of the UK variant. Wayne County has the most with 78, then Washtenaw County with 75, and both Macomb County and Oakland County have less than 35.

“We do know the variant is present, it is more transmissible, which makes those mitigation measures even more important,” Hertel said.

Still, Hertel says there are no discussions to tighten restrictions. However, some schools decided to move virtually. This week, Utica Eisenhower went full virtual through mid-April. Right now more than 400 students are in quarantine from 40 cases.

“The cases in school do seem to be coming from outside events, whether those are athletic events or other extracurricular activities,” Hertel said. "For the most part, I do think that it is happening outside the classroom.”

This week, roughly 65 new schools were added to the State’s school outbreak list. People 30 and under are making up most of the new cases.

"It’s important to remember with kids while they are less likely to have severe outcomes, it doesn't mean they won't have severe outcomes,” Hertel said. "We have seen cases with children who do end up hospitalized, who do end up in the ICU, and who do have long-term effects.”

For now, Hertel is encouraging protective measures to prevent the spread, as the variants become an emerging threat. Although they spread quickly, she's hoping vaccinations move even quicker.

"It’s absolutely a race against the variants,” Hertel said. "As we move forward, I do have concerns about how much we’re seeing COVID transmission among children because every time the virus does transmit to another person, it gives another chance to mutate.”