‘This surge is not like the others’

Michigan health officials say COVID cases on track to peak in late January or early February

By: - January 11, 2022 2:03 pm

Parker Michels-Boyce/ States Newsroom

Michigan health officials on Tuesday continued to urge Michiganders to protect themselves against the months-long COVID-19 surge by getting the free vaccine.

The virtual press conference comes after Michigan set a new record of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday, with 4,580 adults. Another 321 adults were also hospitalized and suspected to have COVID-19.  

There also are 830 COVID-19 patients in the ICU, with 539 of those currently on ventilators. About 84% of adult ICU beds are occupied. 

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Director Elizabeth Hertel said that as Michiganders start this new year and enter a surge of COVID-19 cases, we “start with patience for our health care providers and continued patience with each other.”

“We’re heading toward what will likely be a very sharp crest in this wave of cases, while still seeing our hospitalizations increase,” Hertel said. “It is critical that every person in this state continues to take steps to stay safe.”

DHHS announced Monday that since the beginning of the pandemic, 1,681,135 Michiganders have contracted COVID-19 while 27,878 have died. Since last Friday, there were an additional 44,524 cases and 56 deaths. 

So we have a choice to make. Do we want to work on bringing that peak down? Or do we just want to let this surge explode?

– Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive for the state of Michigan

Pediatric hospitalizations also are rising rapidly. According to data presented at the press conference, there are currently 107 children who are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. There are currently 22 new pediatric admissions each day. 

Dr. Lauren Yagiela, who is a Pediatric Critical Care Physician at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, spoke about the minority of children admitted to the hospital who are facing life-threatening illnesses like COVID pneumonia, myocarditis or heart inflammation, and multi-system inflammatory syndrome. 

“My greatest wish is that a child or family never needs the medical care that I provide in the pediatric ICU,” Yagiela said. “Vaccinating children 5 and older will help us achieve this.”

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive for the state of Michigan, said the state currently has a test positivity rate of 33.2%, 

“This is a number that we have not seen since the beginning of the pandemic,” she said.

“My overall message really this morning for you is that this surge is not like the others,” Bagdasarian added. “We’re in a very different place than we’ve been before.”

Bagdasarian also noted that the state is projected to reach a peak of cases in late January to early February. She said the state’s most pessimistic models point out that there could be up to 200,000 cases per week, a model she noted that “[seems] to be the most accurate.”

So far, there have also been 617 cases of the fast-spreading omicron variant and 30,295 cases of the delta variant confirmed throughout the state of Michigan. But, not all positive tests are sequenced to look for variants. 

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive | Screenshot

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to 93.7% of cases in the region, including Michigan, consist of cases of the omicron variant. It is estimated that only 6.3% are the delta variant. 

In terms of vaccination rates, DHHS reports 57.8% of the state’s population, equating to 5,444,039 Michiganders, have been fully vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one Johnson&Johnson shot. There also are an additional 541,154 Michiganders who have only received their first depose or the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. 

Bagdasarian also said this current surge will not trigger herd immunity against the virus with more people getting ill. She said that “the more people who are vaccinated, the safer it is for society.”

Bagdasarian concluded the press conference by saying if people don’t get vaccinated and don’t use other tools to prevent serious illness as a result of COVID-19, Michigan will continue to see a stark rise in the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. 

“If we don’t use the tools we have, we can expect those peaks to be at those really worst case scenarios that I’ve [shown] you,” Bagdasarian said. “So we have a choice to make. Do we want to work on bringing that peak down? Or do we just want to let this surge explode?” 

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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.