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COVID-19 mini-wave back in Michigan, just in time for Thanksgiving

COVID Thanksgiving celebration with masks and pumpkins
  • COVID-19 cases are up, as are hospitalizations and deaths
  • But the overall numbers remain a fraction of previous years as immunity and new drugs lessen the impact of virus
  • Case counts have risen each of the previous three years following Thanksgiving and the typical gatherings they involve

It’s the holidays, and families are getting together. Will COVID-19 be an uninvited guest?

Coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths are up in Michigan, and in years past have continued to rise after Thanksgiving. Should you worry? Here’s some perspective.

Hospitalizations are up, but still relatively low

Confirmed COVID-19 infections in Michigan are up 70 percent over the last month, with an average of 562 daily cases as of Tuesday.


Though many people no longer get lab tests, experts say the rise is indicative of overall trends and there’s little doubt cases are increasing.

Confirmed cases have risen over 50 percent in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties since Oct. 31, 71 percent over that time in Detroit and 66 percent in Kent County. 

The better measure of case severity is the COVID-19-positive hospitalized patients. That number is up as well, rising 50 percent in the past month. Michigan health officials reported 655 COVID-19-positive patients in hospitals statewide on Monday.

But compared to 2021 and 2022, the numbers remain quite low: In January 2022, 5,000 patients were hospitalized with COVID, the most since the pandemic started.


Deaths rise too but still relatively low

Deaths are still not infrequent with COVID, but the ratio of hospitalizations to deaths has fallen too with the widespread use of therapeutic drugs. 


Earlier in the pandemic, as many as one-quarter of those patients with COVID were ill enough to require intensive-care treatment. On Monday, of the 636 adult patients statewide, 67 were in intensive care, or just 10 percent of the total. Those who are not in intensive care are far more likely to recover and be sent home, experts say.


Drugs like Paxlovid and Remdesivir have vastly improved the odds of surviving a serious bout with a disease blamed in connection with over 39,100 deaths in Michigan since March 2020.

In October, deaths rose to an average of four or five a day. Last year, an average of 20 people died in October and November, a total of 1,234. 

This year, the state has reported 170 COVID-19 deaths since Oct. 1.

In 2020 and 2021, over 13,000 people died each year from COVID-19. That fell to 9,330 in 2022. 

So far in 2023, 1,839 have died.

In the first three years of the pandemic, COVID-19 was the No. 3 cause of death in Michigan, behind heart disease and cancer. This year, it’s likely to fall to the seventh or eighth most common cause, just above deaths attributed to flu and pneumonia but below kidney disease and diabetes.


Because the disease remains devastating for many senior citizens of poor health, caution is still advised. 

Experts say people should avoid crowded public spaces if they contract the disease and to quarantine themselves if they do get it. 

“We continue to urge all Michigan residents to use the tools available to them to protect themselves and their families from respiratory viruses this holiday season,” Lynn Sutfin, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, wrote in an email.

“This includes taking preventative measures such as COVID-19 testing and getting vaccinated for influenza, COVID-19 and RSV if they are eligible.”

New polling suggests that about half of adults are not worried about getting sick, do not intend to take any precautions during the holidays and do not intend to get the latest COVID-19 vaccine, now out for two months.

A quarter of adults who had not gotten the new vaccine said they intended to do so.

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