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Gains over COVID-19 begin to slow, MDHHS says


COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and outbreaks continued to decline statewide over the week ending Saturday, January 2, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

But case numbers appear to be plateauing, and state officials say holiday gatherings could drive a spike.

One key metric — percent positivity — rose slightly over the week: Statewide, 9.6% of tests came back positive, compared to a previous low of 8.2%.

Sarah Lyon-Callo, who directs MDHHS’s Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health, shared the data with reporters during a Wednesday Zoom call.

“The early signs that I’m seeing, looking at the data from this week, I’m suspecting that we’re not gonna see this continued decline,” she said.

She also noted that even with the recent drop, the daily case rate as of January 2 was still twice what it was in early October, when Michigan’s fall surge took off.

As has been the case since October, that high incidence is hindering case investigators, who were only able to complete 44% of investigations between December 20 and January 4. Over that period they found that only 27% of people who tested positive were quarantining at the time they first felt symptoms.

"This is very concerning," she said. “And (quarantining) will become even more important as the B.1.1.7 variant enters the United States and may impact Michigan,” Lyon-Callo said, referring to a new, apparently more contagious variant of the virus.

After originating in the U.K., the variant has landed in at least five U.S. states. And though it hasn’t appeared yet in Michigan, officials believe there's a good chance it will. 

“It is very likely that it is already here, or it will be here soon," said Michigan's chief medical officer, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, during a separate press conference Wednesday.

Lyon-Callo said every positive test sample processed by the state lab is being examined for the variant's genetic sequence, and that there will be an announcement if it is identified.

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Will Callan, a reporter for Michigan Radio, hails from the Bay Area, where he lived in Oakland and San Francisco and reported for local newspapers and magazines. He enjoys a long swim in chilly water (preferably followed by a sauna) and getting to know new cities. That's one reason he's excited to be in Ann Arbor, which he can already tell has just the right combo of urban grit and natural beauty to make him feel at home.
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