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COVID-19 by the numbers, one year after first cases announced

It’s been one year since Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the first cases of COVID-19 in Michigan.

That spring, Michigan became a COVID hotspot. The first wave of the pandemic hit southeast Michigan especially hard. By April 10, 2020, Detroit alone accounted for 23% of the state's total cases, and 32% of deaths.

However, the state's case rate has improved compared to other states in recent months.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Michigan is now 45th among states and territories for case rate per 100,000 people since January 2020. It ranks 26th for cases per 100,000 in the last seven days.

Press play on the image below to see how COVID-19 spread throughout Michigan over the past year:

Currently, Michigan has598,968confirmed COVID cases.

From the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services's daily updates, it took the state five months to reach 100,000 confirmed cases. A few months later, in early November, the state hit 200,000 cases.

Then the mileposts came a bit quicker: just fifteen days later, the state had 300,000 confirmed cases and after another two weeks, hit 400,000 confirmed cases.

The graphic below displays confirmed and probable cases. 

April and December were the worst months for coronavirus deaths.

April saw nearly 3,500 people lost to COVID while December had 2,891 deaths. Only heart disease and cancer kill more people in the state in a typical year.

Michigan, in total, had 15,699 deaths from COVID.

Deaths also disproportionately affected Black residents, as they make up 22% of deaths but only 14% of Michigan's population, emphasizing long-standing socioeconomic inequalities

Almost 1 million people fully vaccinated in Michigan

It’s been nearly three months since the first coronavirus vaccine was distributed in Michigan, and the state has officially administered over 2.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccines. And over 1.7 million people are fully vaccinated as of March 8.*

With a state of almost 10 million people, there is still work to be done. University of Michigan epidemiologist Emily Martin said to Michigan Radio in February that, in a rough estimate, the state will ultimately need to vaccinate 80% of its population. However, it is complicated, since there is not yet a vaccine approved for children and young teenagers.

“And so our goals really have to be to vaccinate everybody that we can vaccinate,” she said.

According to Detroit’s vaccine dashboard on Tuesday, the city has administered 117,066 vaccines. The categories with the most vaccinations are residents over 60, teachers and grocery store workers.

Higher than the recession

The pandemic dealt a major blow to jobs: In April 2020, Michigan saw an unemployment rate of 24% — much higher than the worst month of the recession, which was 14.6% in June 2009.

Among major metro areas in the state, Flint in Genesee County was hardest hit with an unemployment rate peak of 30%. It has dropped to the single-digits since.

Food has been a major need for many in Michigan during the pandemic.

A spokesperson from the southeast Michigan food bank Gleaners said to Michigan Radio in January it distributed 63.7 million pounds of food in 2020. That is around 19 million more than in a regular year. December was Gleaners’ biggest food distribution month ever — giving out 7.7 million pounds of food.


As the academic year started in the fall, Michigan began publicly tracking school, college, and university COVID cases. In-person classes as well as on and off campus housing and gatherings have been large sources of outbreaks.

As of March 8, there have been 226 new cases and 6,729 ongoing cases. The school with the most ongoing cases is Michigan State University, but there are high numbers of cases among midsize and small colleges as well.  

Michigan prisons have seen many infections during the coronavirus pandemic. An analysis by the Marshall Project ranks Michigan highest in the country for its cases per 10,000 prisoners. 

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, prisons have had 25,404 cases and 138 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. There have been at least 716,667 tests. 

Correction: A previous version of this article said "at least 963,354" people were fully vaccinated. This piece has been updated with MDHHS's more exact number, which was added to the state dashboard. 

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Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
Nisa Khan joins Michigan Radio as the station’s first full-time data reporter. In that capacity, she will be reporting on data-driven news stories as well as working with other news staff to acquire and analyze data in support of their journalism.
Brad Gowland joined Michigan Radio in 2019 to help with the station's growing digital side, specializing in data collection and digital audio.
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