Professor of Epidemiology: There Are Major Differences Between Michigan and States Seeing Uptick of COVID-19

Michigan reported lowest daily death toll Sunday since beginning of pandemic

WWJ News
June 14, 2020 - 5:58 pm

(WWJ) Michigan is reporting the lowest number of daily COVID-19 deaths since the earliest days of the pandemic.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said three more Michiganders who have tested positive for the virus have died since Saturday.

189 new cases have been confirmed.

44,964 Michiganders are considered recovered from the virus after surviving 30 days post diagnosis. 

The encouraging trends for our state comes as more than a dozen other states see new highs in daily cases including Georgia, Florida, and Texas.

Oregon and Utah have paused their reopening amid increasing case counts. Multiple sources say many Arizona hospitals are nearing capacity.  

While experts scramble to find a reason such as reopening or protests; Dr. Arnold Monto, Professor of Epidemiology at University of Michigan School of Public Health, said the explanation is rarely so simple.

“It’s rarely a single thing that causes an uptick,” Monto said live on WWJ. “It’s usually people doing risky things they shouldn’t be doing, and those states (the ones seeing an uptick), I don’t think they have been as scared as we have been by what we experienced a couple months ago.”

Dr. Monto said a similar spike in cases is not inevitable as Michigan reopens; if residents continue to wear masks in public places and abide by other Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines such as washing hands and staying at least six feet away from other people when possible. 

To see the CDC's reccomendations on how to resume everyday activities, click here. 

There are some major differences between the states seeing an uptick and Michigan, according to Monto.

“Those are the areas that never had as many cases (as Michigan) or never really closed down,” he told WWJ’s Rob Mason.

Cases numbers are expected to go up as testing increases, Monto said, but that is not the ultimate litmus test.

“One of the things we’re looking at is percent positive because what we’re doing is spreading the net wider,” he said. “The test is much more available. A lot of people…we call them the worried well, maybe getting tested and they are not going to be positive.”

Michigan’s percent positive rate has averaged between 2 and 2.5% for the past week.

To find a test site near you, click here.

Rt.live.com, a website that tracks the viral reproduction rate (rt) for each state and is endorsed by former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, lists Michigan's rt as .83.

1 is outbreak level.

Florida’s rt is 1.03. Texas’ is 1.02. Arizona’s is the highest at 1.18.

To see the viral reproduction rate for each state, click here.

“This is a disease that occurs in clusters…nursing homes, meatpacking,” Monto said. “I don’t think what you’re seeing in Arizona or Texas is just clusters. I think there is community spread going on there. But they have gone up from a lower level than we experienced.”

Dr. Monto said it is important to be careful as Michigan takes the next step.

“We have to make sure everyone is aware there are still risks out there,” Monto said.

He said there could be a small amount of room for error, but not a lot.

“The good news is, as the percent positives go down, risky behaviors are not going to endanger the rest of us as much. That’s the reason for this progressive opening. To hope that as we see numbers going down…the percent who are positive, who can transmit, is going down.”

Monto told WWJ a lot of the states did not wait long enough to begin rolling back restrictions.

“The problem in other areas, if the numbers are flat or going up, doing risky things is going to be much more risky,” he said.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says approximately 10 percent of the state’s population have either been tested for the virus itself or COVID-19 antibodies.

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Additional reading:

To read about symptoms of coronavirus, click here. 

To find out who is most at risk, click here. 

To see a breakdown of cases by Michigan county, click here.