Michigan is experiencing its highest COVID-19 case numbers of the pandemic thus far, and the surge is largely driven by unvaccinated people.
The state has the highest case rate in the country at almost 500 new cases for every 100,000 people in the last week, and about one in five patients in Michigan hospitals are sick with Covid.
About 71 percent of Michigan’s cases, 72 percent of hospitalizations, and 76 percent of deaths occurred in residents who weren’t fully vaccinated between October 21 and November 19, according to state data.
Healthcare systems in the state are struggling to care for Covid patients – in addition to patients with the flu and other conditions – amid staffing shortages.
Experts are calling the situation ‘dire’ and encouraging Michigan residents to get vaccinated.
Experts are calling Michigan’s situation ‘dire’ as the state sees its highest Covid case rates since the start of the pandemic. Pictured: A Covid patient is interviewed at the William Beaumont hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, April 2021
While cases have increased among fully vaccinated Michigan residents (black line) as vaccinated people make up a larger share of the population, unvaccinated people (blue line) remain at a far higher risk of infection, serious illness, and death
For the last month, Covid cases have increased sharply in Michigan.
The state currently has the highest case rate in the country, at almost 500 new cases for every 100,000 people in the week ending December 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This case rate is higher than Michigan’s cases have been at any other point in the pandemic, including last winter’s surge.
‘The situation right here in Michigan is as dire as it has ever been since the start of this pandemic,’ Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, told ABC News.
All major Covid metrics are trending up, according to the state’s latest weekly data and modeling report, released on Tuesday.
Last week, Michigan reported its highest-ever number of COVID-19 infections in seven days, and this week, the state reported its second-highest number.
This slight drop is likely caused by reporting hiccups over the Thanksgiving weekend, and experts anticipate cases to rise further as the delayed reports come in.
Cases have ‘skyrocketed’ in the past month, Dr Darryl Elmouchi, president of the hospital system Spectrum Health West Michigan, told ABC News.
Michigan was already seeing high cases – with test positivity rates over 10 percent – prior to November, meaning the existing surge rose from a high baseline, Elmouchi said.
‘This has far surpassed anything we’ve seen before – both in how long it’s been going on, and now its seemingly never-ending peak,’ he said.
‘We just don’t know when the end will be, and we’re very worried it will have a very long tail.’
Michigan’s test positivity rate is 18.9 percent as of Tuesday – meaning almost one in five Covid tests are returning positive results.
The CDC considers a test positivity rate over five percent a signifier of concerning transmission levels, and a rate over 10 percent signifies high transmission.
Covid hospitalizations are also increasing in Michigan, with 20 percent of inpatient beds in the state now occupied by Covid patients – up from 17 percent the previous week.
Case rates in Michigan in late November 2021 (blue line) are higher than they were in late November 2020 (black line) and rising sharply, according to state data
Michigan’s cases, test positivity, and hospitalizations are all higher at the end of November 2021 than they were at the end of November 2020.
‘I never would have guessed that we would be in yet another surge and that it would be the worst surge yet,’ Sandra Gilman, a nurse and hospital supervisor for Spectrum Health, told ABC News.
According to state data, unvaccinated Michigan residents are driving this current surge.
About 54 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, while about 61 percent have received at least one dose.
This is lower than the national rate: 59 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated and 70 percent have received at least one dose as of December 1, according to the CDC.
Between October 21 and November 19, 71 percent of Michigan’s cases occurred in residents who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
A similar share of hospitalizations – 72 percent – occurred among the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated.
And more than three in four deaths – 76 percent – occurred among those who aren’t fully vaccinated.
Less than one in four Covid deaths in Michigan in the last month have occurred in fully vaccinated people
In September, less than one in every 100,000 fully vaccinated Michigan residents died of Covid, while about six in every 100,000 unvaccinated residents died of the disease
In September 2021, unvaccinated people in Michigan had 4.4 times the risk of testing positive for Covid and 9.3 times the risk of dying from the disease, compared to vaccinated people.
For every 100,000 fully vaccinated Michigan residents, there were fewer than one Covid deaths.
Unvaccinated patients at Spectrum Health West Michigan tend to be several years younger and have fewer preexisting health conditions than vaccinated patients, Elmouchi told ABC News.
‘That tells us the importance of being vaccinated,’ he said. ‘And that’s what’s so heartbreaking for our teams, is that they see all these people that are so sick, being on the ventilator and even dying, and they know it’s preventable. It’s heart-wrenching.’
Michigan has the highest rate of hospital beds in use of any state in the country, per Tuesday’s state Covid report.
Current hospitalizations have passed winter 2020 and spring 2021 peaks, and are approaching Michigan’s spring 2020 peak – of about 4,400 patients.
Hospitalizations among younger adults have increased in Michigan in recent months
At the same time, Michigan is seeing an increase in flu patients and other non-Covid patients, while healthcare systems do not have adequate staff to address the crisis, Peters told ABC News.
The state has about 875 fewer staffed beds than it did in November 2020, Peters said.
Some hospitals are sending patients to other facilities and postponing non-essential procedures.
‘That is incredibly concerning, because there’s not a rapid or easy solution to that problem,’ he said.
The Department of Defense has deployed almost 50 medical staff to hospitals in the state, but more assistance is needed.
Michigan health officials are encouraging residents to get vaccinated, including booster shots, amid concerns about this surge and the Omicron variant – which was identified in the U.S. on Wednesday.
‘I fear that there are so many Michiganders, and I’m sure it’s true outside of Michigan as well, but who believe that the pandemic is largely over,’ Peters said. ‘And nothing could be further from the truth.’