(The Center Square) – A year into the pandemic, Michigan has become the worst COVID-19 hotspot in the nation.
As of Tuesday, Michigan has added 100,000 cases and 532 deaths in the last 27 days, outpacing all other states, the Detroit News reported.
The state's percentage of positive COVID-19 tests continued to increase for the sixth straight week. On Saturday, the state had a 17.6% case positivity rate.
In late February, the state had a 3.9% case positivity rate.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer previously suggested the increase in case rates might be because of the state’s strictest rules in the nation that prevented Michiganders from contracting COVID-19 and forming antibodies. For example, an early Whitmer order threatened criminal charges for operating a motorboat.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin told The Center Square the increase in COVID-19 cases is driven partly by more infectious variants.
“Our goal is to reengage while reducing public health risk which is why we move slowly to maintain progress and momentum with thoughtful public health measures,” Sutfin wrote in an email. “We will continue to monitor the data to make decisions including three key metrics: case rates, percent positivity, and hospitalizations.”
Sutfin encouraged Michiganders to wear a mask, wash hands, and social distance, and get a vaccine to slow the spread of this virus.
The state is also ramping up testing in schools, businesses and nursing homes as more Michiganders are eligible for the vaccine.
The rising case rates appear concurrently, with nearly 3 million Michiganders receiving vaccine injections.
Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail blamed rising case rates on people breaking COVID-19 rules.
“We already have restrictions. It’s like, what more do you need in this particular circumstance. What you need is for people to actually be following these guidelines and complying with the restrictions that already exist,” Vail told Mlive.
But it’s not that simple. Multiple states have dropped statewide capacity restrictions and mask mandates, such as Texas. Still, Michigan’s COVID-19 numbers are still worse. On Monday, Texas reported a 2.19% case positivity rate, ABC reported, with a current 14-day average new case rate of 2,225 (Michigan has roughly 10 million residents while Texas has nearly 30 million). Michigan’s seven-day average case count hit 6,720 on Monday, the New York Times reported.
While getting vaccinated Tuesday at Ford Field, Whitmer said she doesn’t plan to reinstate COVID-19 restrictions, saying the current increase in cases is driven by pandemic fatigue, mobility and COVID-19 variants.
Similar caseloads that triggered a 75-day indoor restaurant dining ban in November, when the state’s case positivity rate was 13%, elicited no new restrictions in April with a current case positivity rate of 17.6%.
Vail told Mlive although the case positivity rate is higher, COVID-19 is infecting younger people, so the cases are less severe.
The state has injected 4.7 million of 5.6 million doses distributed. About 36.5% of Michiganders have completed one vaccine, while 22.6% are fully vaccinated.