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Despite increased COVID vaccination efforts, Michigan seeing cases rise at disturbing rate

Posted at 4:07 PM, Apr 09, 2021

(WXYZ) — This week Michigan surpassed 100,000 active COVID cases for the first time since mid-November. A troubling statistic, particularly as the state's vaccination efforts have increased in recent weeks.

"We are seeing an upward trend in COVID cases, positivity and hospitalizations and I’m very concerned about that," City of Detroit Public Health Officer Denise Fair said at a Mar. 29 press conference, noting that the majority of the cases were attributed those 20-29 (22%) and 30-39 (18%).

"Hear us when we say don’t wait and get vaccinated," she continued.

The city of Detroit — like much of the state — is in the midst of a bizarre balancing act: there are several options for those who want to get vaccinated, yet the virus also continues to surge. As of Thursday, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the state had the highest COVID-19 rate in the country: 492.1 cases per 100,000 people.

On Friday Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a press conference addressing the surge. While she did not implement any new restrictions, she encouraged Michiganders to take a pause from indoor dining and high schools to consider virtual learning and to take a pause from youth sports.

"To be very clear, these are not orders, mandates, or requirements," Whitmer said. "A year in, we all know what works and this has to be a team effort. We have to do this together. Lives depend on it."

While those under 16 are ineligible to get vaccinated, there is an increased effort to try to get older young people to get vaccinated as evidenced by Oakland University's recent decision to require vaccinations for all students living in student residents in the fall, but also opening a vaccination clinic this week.

"We really have a race between the vaccination which is coming and we're getting a lot more of it, and the infections which are, right now we're in a fourth surge," said Dr. Ora Pescovitz, a pediatrician and the President of Oakland University.

Oakland University worked with the state, county, and Rite-Aid to run a vaccination clinic for students, faculty and staff.

"Even though many students have mild disease or are even asymptomatic, I worry that they could carry the virus home with them, and I worry especially now," she said, noting her worries about the spread of variants in the state.

According to lab testing company Helix, the B.1.1.7 (the UK variant) — which is considered more deadly and transmissible — makes up 70 percent of Michigan’s new cases. The state leads the nation when it comes to the rise in variant cases.

But as we’ve learned throughout the pandemic, a surge in cases can have more than one culprit.

"It is possible that the variants are definitely playing a role in this whole thing but that’s certainly not the only factor," said Dr. Aimee Gordon is an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan.

"I think in general people are getting exhausted," she continued, explaining that with many older — more at-risk — individuals vaccinated, she believes younger people are also just letting down their guard more.

"A lot of them, I think were holding their kids back from doing things while they were kind of looking out for their parents or higher risk individuals in their kids lives," she said.

"There’s two ways to get to herd immunity," she continued. "Either thru vaccination, which certainly preferable, or infection."

Health officials stress that while getting vaccinated is the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19, you should not forget the other measures that we know help curb cases: social distancing and wearing a mask.