Breaking down the numbers as Michigan confirms highest daily coronavirus count since April

Deaths, hospitalizations remain comparatively low
A medic with the Michigan National Guard Task Force 182nd performs no-cost COVID-19 tests for...
A medic with the Michigan National Guard Task Force 182nd performs no-cost COVID-19 tests for residents in Munising, Michigan. Those who chose to do so will get the results from their county health department after a week.(Photo by Michigan Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Tegan Kucera)
Published: Sep. 11, 2020 at 11:06 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - More than 1,300 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported across Michigan on Friday.

That’s a relatively significant increase and the state’s largest single-day jump since April. But that number alone doesn’t tell the whole story. An expert helped put the data into perspective.

“To see those numbers, I was surprised," said Memorial Healthcare CEO Brian Long.

But just where are all of these new numbers coming from? Skeptics might point to the sheer number of coronavirus tests now being administered across the country. Long said that’s likely only part of the bigger picture.

“We’re testing over 4,000 tests ourselves on a monthly basis,” said Long. “Of these tests -- at least 50% to 60% -- the majority of those are individuals that are asymptomatic.”

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the state’s testing capabilities have seen a massive build up from 7,109 on April 4 to 35,995 on Sept. 10. The state’s overall rate of positive tests also has dropped from 68% in April to just 4% in September.

But Long said robust testing can’t possibly account for the bulk of the curve Michigan is seeing, because a positive diagnostic test still means a new transmission.

“We’re seeing it in the university settings,” Long said, pointing to one possible source of post-lockdown transmission. “The larger numbers of folks being out in all these areas and having greater contact, you’re going to have some additional spread. You just are.”

The lockdown lifted, people began to leave their homes, local businesses again lit up their open signs, only to discover the increased activity had given the virus a deeper foothold.

Large-scale events prompt concern as well, like Thursday night’s rally with President Donald Trump at MBS International Airport, which drew around 10,000 people, and ongoing protests throughout the nation.

“We need to apoliticize this,” Long said. “The more people you have in close contact, your chances increase. Mathematically, they just do.”

Long also pointed squarely to coronavirus' changing demographics. The bulk of illnesses has shifted from the state’s most vulnerable populations to the teens and 20-somethings, who number among the least at risk.

“It’s going to impact most of them less severely,” Long said.

He believes that helps explain a statewide decline in the number of people hospitalized for confirmed and suspected COVID-19 illnesses and in the number of deaths attributed to coronavirus.

As of Friday, Michigan hospitals were treating 569 coronavirus patients with 169 in intensive care and 77 on ventilators.

“There’s reason for hope and optimism,” Long said. “We’re not out of the woods, but we’re not nearly as apprehensive. We are a quantum leap ahead of where we were just three months ago.”

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