2020 ELECTION UPDATE AGAIN
February 7, 2021
The go-to source for Michigan coronavirus news is www.michigan.gov/coronavirus, which is updated very frequently. The Governor and/or her Chief Medical Officer hold at least weekly news conferences about the virus that are streamed live and covered in local media.
Cases Down — New COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to fall, thus creating conditions for loosening restrictions on businesses, schools, and indoor gatherings. Cases are down 80 percent since the peak in November according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). However, COVID-19 statistics are still a lot higher than the summer of 2020. Additionally, the Great Britain variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Washtenaw and Kalamazoo Counties. Nevertheless, dine-in restaurant service, with limited capacity of 25 percent seating and 10 p.m. closure, as well as the resumption of food service at bowling alleys and movie theaters returned on February 1.
Positivity Rate — On February 4, the percentage of people tested for the virus that tested positive was 4.9 percent, one third of where it was at the peak of the second wave in December when it peaked at 15.99 percent.
Hospitalizations — The number of adults hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of the virus also continues to fall, sinking to 1,375 as of February 1, down from the peak of about 4,300 on November 30, 2020. It is still several hundred above the number of hospitalizations just before the second wave began in October. Just 6.6 percent of hospital beds were occupied with COVID-19 patients at the beginning of February.
COVID Deaths — Deaths also continue to fall sharply. During the height of the second wave in early December, the State averaged 138 deaths per day. In late January that rate fell to an average of about 40 a day. The current death rate is still far worse than what it was at the end of September just before the start of the second wave when 12 per day died.
School Outbreaks — So far the Governor is sticking with her plan to have every school offer some in-person schooling by March 1. At this writing, the latest K-12 schools outbreak data from the State shows 98 students and staff have tested positive for the virus because of newly discovered outbreaks at 31 school facilities. One of the largest of the pandemic so far is occurring at the middle school for the Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium, and Keweenaw in the Upper Peninsula with 20 people reported as infected.
On February 4, the Governor announced that school contact sports could resume as of February 8. A recent lawsuit to compel the return of contact sports and a rally by athletes and supporters at the capitol may have gotten her attention.
Since mid-January, seniors 65 and above have been eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, but accessing them has been very difficult for many people, especially those without internet or transportation, and those without connection to current news and social organizations likely to pass along the news and assistance.
By all accounts, the State has established an elaborate and thorough plan for vaccination distribution. The problem is availability of doses to administer. Currently, the State has the capacity to vaccinate about 80,000 people a day, but is limited by the amount of vaccine it receives. The news that Johnson and Johnson has applied for emergency authorization and has a promising profile means potentially increased availability. Michigan has surpassed 1 million vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna already administered for its 10 million residents.
Appointment Scheduling — MDHHS is distributing vaccines to 140 providers in Michigan at this time, including local government health departments, hospitals, and major pharmacies. Right now, walk-up vaccinations are not available; you must get an appointment on provider websites. Local government health department phone lines are very busy and on-line registration is encouraged. People are registering with several providers to have a better chance of an early vaccination. If you or someone you know is having problems registering for notification of an appointment opportunity, call 211 for assistance.
Eligible frontline essential workers will be notified by their employers about vaccine clinic dates and locations. These workers include school and child care staff, frontline responders, and corrections staff.
Interim Goals — The interim goal for vaccination for 70 percent of all Michigan residents is late 2021. The interim goal for Phase 1B groups to vaccinate — those age 65 and older, frontline essential workers, child care and pre-K through high school staff, and residents of congregate care facilities — is early to mid-June. If Michigan gets more doses, this timeline will move up.
For 18- to 64-year-olds with COVID-19 risk factors or preexisting conditions, their first doses are expected to begin in May with the bulk receiving their first dose by October’s end.
Distribution Equity — New MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel has stated that the State is working to allocate current vaccines so that there are no disparities among populations receiving the vaccine and that people should not have to travel more than 20 minutes to reach a vaccination site. MDHHS is relying on a social vulnerability index published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to accomplish this goal. The index comprises 15 social factors, including socioeconomic status, household composition, a person’s English language abilities or minority status, and the type of housing or transportation abilities within a community.
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