LANSING, Mich. — Loosened COVID-19 restrictions and the more infection Delta variant of the virus are helping the pandemic reassert itself in Michigan.
Across the country, the Delta variant is putting a damper on the progress states have made against the pandemic. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials have recommended that people mask up again in indoor public spaces, even if people are fully vaccinated, especially in areas with high COVID-19 rates.
For the moment, that criteria does not fit mid-Michigan.
“Michigan seems to have had less of the Delta variant than the U.S. as a whole," said Dr. Jennifer Morse who serves as the Mid-Michigan District Health Department's medical director. "We’ve only confirmed in our genotyping out of cases last reported that there were 71 cases that were confirmed to be due to the Delta variant, so really just a small fraction. It wouldn’t take long for that to explode into much higher numbers."
Michigan's COVID numbers are on the rise after hitting a low in June. There were 1,762 new COVID cases reported in the state over a four-day period. The state's rolling average has also increased slightly from 332 cases on Friday to 437 as of Tuesday.
Factors like loosening COVID restrictions, more frequent gatherings and the state's failure to reach herd immunity are all contributing to the rise in cases.
“One thing to do is go look at where our numbers trended last year. We did dip to our lowest point in June last year, which we did this year, and then by July we were starting to tick up and that’s what’s happening again," said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail.
Local health officials say that pattern could spell trouble for the fall when cases could jump just like last year. Mitigation efforts like wearing masks and social distancing to slow the spread of the virus could be necessary once again.
This is especially true "for those that can't get the vaccine for some reason or for children, those under 12 that aren't vaccinated," said Dr. Paul Entler, Sparrow Health's vice president of quality and performance improvement.
The CDC is recommending that all students and teachers mask up regardless of vaccination status. Despite changing guidelines, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said this week that she does not anticipate having to implement new pandemic orders.
"We are watching carefully what the CDC is recommending," she said at a press event Wednesday. "I would anticipate that what the CDC recommends we will continue to promulgate guidance."
Whitmer and local health officials urged all Michiganders to get vaccinated.
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