Mid-Michigan healthcare expert addresses climbing coronavirus numbers, misinformation

Published: Oct. 18, 2020 at 10:59 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) (10/18/2020)-The state wide total of confirmed cases now stands just under 145-thousand. Michigan’s death toll has also surpassed 7-thousand. But there is some good news: nearly 110-thousand people have recovered from the virus.

So, what, if anything can be gleaned from Michigan’s recent increases and should locals be concerned? There is no hard-and-fast answer, according to an expert in the field.

“There’s no doubt about it. We’ve seen a higher number.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 1791 new cases of coronavirus Saturday as the data continues a steady march north into highs not seen since April.

Memorial Healthcare CEO Brian Long says their numbers show the same trend.

“There are two dynamics at play,” he explained.

Long attributes the spike to a combination of different factors.

“The interaction is significantly higher and we’re going to get a certain amount of community spread from that,” Long related. “We’re seeing a good deal… as a result of a significant increase in testing.”

Michigan surpassed 50,000 daily tests as of October 15, its largest effort to date. The state’s positivity rate, however, a key indicator of just how widespread the virus is, also ticked up to 4.7-percent last week, its highest mark since May.

Hospitalizations, meanwhile, nearly tripled from a June lull, hovering near 1000 Sunday. There is, however, according to Long, a significant upside.

“50 to 60-percent of our positives that we’re seeing… very mild symptoms or entirely asymptomatic,” Long said. “The reality is, back in April or May, we wouldn’t have even tested those individuals.”

The fight against disinformation may be as crucial as the fight against the virus itself.

ABC12 has gotten question after question regarding the accuracy of the state’s data – including whether multiple positive tests performed on a single patient may be double counted. Internally, Long told ABC12 that Memorial Healthcare has a stringent tracking system in place to ensure that doesn’t happen. While on the state-level, this reporter found the Michigan Disease Tracking System follows individual cases--not just tests--to ensure the same level of accuracy.

When it comes to the still heated debate over mask wearing – Long compares them to seatbelts.

“The science tells us this is a good way of mitigating some of that spread,” Long explained.

Daily deaths remain comparatively low statewide, though, with cold weather on the horizon, Long explained now more than ever, it pays for the state to keep its guard up and take common sense precautions.

“People have asked me, is the seasonal flu vaccine important today,” Long related. “I think it’s more important than ever before…. It has the potential of overwhelming any of our systems.”

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