Resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Michigan may be 'beginning of a second wave'

Oct 14, 2020 at 2:02 pm
click to enlarge Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, at a recent news conference. - State of Michigan
State of Michigan
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, at a recent news conference.

State health officials are bracing for what could be a second wave of coronavirus infections as the number of new cases reaches a high not seen in more than five months.

The state reported 1,237 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, lifting the rolling seven-day average to 1,125 — the highest since mid-April, when the pandemic hit a peak in Michigan and overwhelmed hospitals.

"It is very possible that this is the beginning of a second wave," Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said during a news conference Tuesday.

The resurgence comes at a precarious time for the state. On Oct. 2, the Michigan Supreme Court struck down Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus safeguards, which have been credited for the dramatic decline in new COVID-19 cases.

Now that cases are increasing, Whitmer is working with the Legislature in hopes of renewing those safeguards, but Republicans have balked at statewide mask mandates and social distancing requirements. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has alarmed health officials after suggesting the state should allow the coronavirus to spread until it achieves “herd immunity,” or when the virus cannot spread any further because a significant number of people have become immunized.

In response, five public health officials warned on Monday that “herd immunity” could quadruple the number of deaths linked to the coronavirus.

"If 'herd immunity' were to begin after about 80% of the state’s population has been infected, as some believe, then 6.5 million more Michiganders would still need to contract COVID-19," the officials wrote. "At the current mortality rate, this would mean more than 30,000 additional deaths — more than four times the number of deaths to date."  

In the meantime, some local governments are imposing their own safeguards. Denise Fair, the Detroit public health officer, on Friday issued an order imposing the same restrictions that were in place statewide. Those include requiring masks and limiting gatherings.

On Thursday, Wayne County also issued an emergency order requiring residents to wear masks outside their homes. Earlier this month, Oakland County health officials also imposed a mask mandate.

The daily number of coronavirus cases has been increasing every month since June, which averaged 215 daily infections. The number increased to 564 in July, 673 in August, 740 in September, and 1,002 so far this month.

"That is why we are asking everyone to remain vigilant and do these basic things: wearing masks, avoiding the social gatherings,” Khaldun said. “It's very important."

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