In Michigan, coronavirus case trends are heading in the wrong direction. That's according to The Atlantic's COVID Tracking Project, which reports that COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen by 45 percent in Michigan since late February. The state also has the highest infection rate in the nation.
"On average, each person in Michigan with COVID is infecting 1.18 other people. As such, the total number of active cases in Michigan is growing at an unsustainable rate," a report from COVID Act Now reads. "If this trend continues, the hospital system may become overloaded. Caution is warranted."
Michigan ranks fourth in the nation for the highest daily new COVID cases per 100,000 residents, behind New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. According to COVID Act Now, Michigan's rate is considered "high."
This surge has led to Michigan having the nation's fourth-highest number of daily new coronavirus cases this week. The brunt of this surge seems to be centered in the Detroit area, which now ranks first in the nation in a metric that combines increases in test positivity and cases, and fourth in hospital admissions for metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Why is this happening? Dr. Teena Chopra, an infectious-disease specialist and Wayne State University professor, told Metro Times it's likely there are multiple factors. Restaurants reopened for indoor dining in February. But even more contagious mutations of the virus, or "variants of concern," have also appeared, including B.1.1.7, which has been driving the spread of COVID-19 in Washtenaw County at the University of Michigan. According to the CDC, Michigan has the second-most confirmed cases of B.1.1.7 after Florida — despite having fewer than half the number of residents.
Another factor could be the disparity in vaccinations across the state. The COVID Tracking Project notes that according to state data, Michigan has administered first doses to 61% of its residents aged 65–74, and 62% of residents 75 and older. In comparison, the CDC reports that 66% of the U.S. population aged 65 and up has received at least one dose of vaccine.
But in majority-Black Detroit, only 43% of those aged 65–74 and 39% of people 75 and older have been given their first doses of vaccinations. And while Michigan has vaccinated about a quarter of its total population, only about 15% of eligible Detroiters have been given their first dose. The trend continues for Black people across the state, with just 28% of Black residents 65 and older receiving at least one dose of vaccine.
If vaccine hesitancy a factor, it's not just in Black communities. According to polls, Republican men report the highest rate of vaccine hesitancy, with nearly half, or 49%, saying they won't get vaccinated. Meanwhile, 47% Trump supporters say they won't get vaccinated, as well as 25% of Black respondents, 28% of white respondents, and 37% of Latino respondents, according to Axios. That's contrasted with only 10% of Biden supporters who said they won't get vaccinated.
The surge comes just as Michigan is ramping up vaccination efforts. On Wednesday, a massive regional coronavirus vaccination facility at Detroit's Ford Field opened, which officials say can vaccinate 6,000 people a day. So far, at least 3.2 million vaccinations have been administered, and 14.3% of Michigan residents are fully vaccinated.
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