(WXYZ) — Despite falling COVID-19 cases across the country, Michigan is bucking the national trend. Cases remain high.
In fact, new daily COVID-19 cases in the state remain nearly twice as high as much larger states like Florida and California.
So why is Michigan different? Infectious disease experts say there are no easy answers.
The state has been through multiple surges of COVID-19. The latest is fueled by the delta variant, and as we move into the colder months, Michigan remains one of just five states that have yet to stop rising cases.
According to Dr. Matthew Sims of Beaumont Health, it is not unusual for Michigan COVID-19 cases to ebb and flow out of step with the rest of the nation. He said that's just one of the ways the delta surge is unique. Past surges have been shorter and sharper.
"Prior times, we would get this tremendous number of cases over a short period of time, and then it would fall immediately," he said.
But during the delta surge, cases have been climbing slowly and steadily since the end of June. The peak hasn't been as pronounced with this surge. It's likely just as large.
"Because it sort of spread out over more time, that's probably more cases overall involved. The reasons for these aren't 100% clear," he said.
Sims said one of the reasons states in the south, including Florida and Texas, saw peaks during summer may be the intense heat driving people inside just as the delta variant hit. Michiganders were spending more time outdoors.
Another factor in Michigan is the return to school. Last week, Michigan reported 100 new outbreaks. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said K-12 outbreaks are outpacing all other settings.
Sims said pediatric cases are a key driver of the surge and point to districts without mask mandates.
"The data is absolutely clear that in the school districts without mask mandates, there are higher cases of COVID-19," he said.
Now, we're entering the cold months with family gatherings and holiday celebrations.
Michigan's COVID-19 positivity rate, case rate, percent of inpatient hospital beds with COVID-19 patients and the death rate are all up.
"Do you expect this slow, steady surge to continue into and through the holidays, maybe into 2022?" I asked.
"It may. And that's frustrating and scary," Sims said.
The challenge in getting to the bottom of the surge in Michigan is that a lot of factors are driven by human behavior.
It's the same delta variant in Michigan as it is everywhere else.
Health experts say masking, vaccinations and staying home when you are sick will be critical in stopping the surge as we move into the cold weather season.
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