Michigan reported 2,030 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday—the largest one-day increase the state has seen since the pandemic began in March.
There is some nuance to that number. A computer glitch slowed data transfers earlier this week, which means some cases reported Thursday should have come in Wednesday.
Still, case numbers are on an upward trajectory. The weekly average number of cases has now hit 1,293—the highest level since mid-April.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday that state officials have long expected to see a COVID-19 resurgence in the fall.
“People are coming inside, we’ve got kids in face-to-face instruction, there are more contacts because we’ve re-engaged our economy, and it’s flu season,” Whitmer said.
Dr. Sarah Lyon-Callo, Michigan’s state epidemiologist, said the state overall now has around 99 cases per million residents. “You can see that we're incrementally increasing over the last few weeks in terms of the number of cases that we have in Michigan,” she said.
Lyon-Callo said the state is also seeing a growing number of case clusters, “in community settings like some churches and funerals. And we're seeing cases that are also occurring within retail establishments or other kinds of businesses.”
But, Lyon-Callo also said most emerging COVID-19 cases—in some areas, as many as three-quarters of them—can’t be linked back to any particular cluster or outbreak. “What this really indicates is that we’re seeing community spread of this virus,” she said.
Another point to note: while a number of outbreaks have been linked to colleges and universities, Michigan’s K-12 schools so far don’t seem to be major sources of community spread. While a number of COVID-19 cases have been identified in various schools, “you can see that it's a relatively small number of schools or outbreaks that are identified relative to the schools that are open in the state,” Lyon-Callo said. “They’re not the larger events that we're seeing at universities and things like that. And they're relatively small in frequency.”
Like other state officials, Lyon-Callo is concerned about a second spike in the pandemic during the fall and winter months. She said that despite “pandemic fatigue,” people need to continue to wear masks, wash their hands, and practice social distancing—including avoiding household gatherings as people move social activities indoors.
One positive note so far is that deaths still remain relatively low, far below rates we saw in the spring. The state reported 32 deaths on Thursday, but some of those deaths were attributed to vital records reviews and actually occurred earlier.
Lyon-Callo said she’s hopeful that COVID-19 deaths will never again reach the levels we saw in April, where on average more than 100 people died every day. She said doctors and hospitals are now better at treating COVID-19, and more widespread testing is available.
But, she added: ““As we see case increases, we will see an increase in mortality as well.”