Flint doctor says Michigan’s COVID-19 rates will stay high until people get vaccine

New cases are highest since late April and hospitalizations are highest since mid-May
Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 8:02 AM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan’s coronavirus recovery is sputtering along while the national outlook improves.

It’s a concern for health leaders across the state.

The CDC’s latest data shows the delta variant surge has been starting to slow nationwide over the last month. About 92,000 new cases per day are being confirmed across the U.S., which is down about 42% from this fall’s peak of about 160,000 new cases per day.

But Michigan is one of five states across the nation where COVID-19 cases continue surging. The remaining 45 states are seeing a major improvement with cases and hospitalizations.

New COVID-19 infections are on the rise in Michigan and have reached the highest point since the end of April.

The same goes for hospitalizations with nearly 2,000 patients are fighting the virus in Michigan hospitals. That is nearly eight times as many as the low point this summer and the most since mid-May.

Millions of Michiganders remain unvaccinated and the number of people rolling up their sleeves is dwindling.

Dr. Bobby Mukkamala of Flint, who is chairman of the American Medical Association board, said he doesn’t see Michigan’s trajectory changing anytime soon unless more people in the Wolverine State get vaccinated.

“Our vac rate for the state is hovering around 50% and this is a consequence for a low vac rate is the virus has unvaccinated people to infect and then spread -- and I think that is why we are seeing what we are seeing,” he said.

Mukkamala said we don’t have to compare Michigan to other states to see the difference vaccination rates make related to the the number of new COVID-19 infections. It’s a trend that holds true in counties throughout the state.

Across Michigan, vaccination rates vary widely.

“Oakland County and Washtenaw County are sitting at 70% or better and their rates are much lower than Genesee County and some of the other counties on the west side of the state,” Mukkamala said. “So even within Michigan, we see the benefit of vaccination in some counties and the downside of high unvac pop in some other counties.”

While the coronavirus is in all corners of the state, various examples show that COVID-19 deaths are more avoidable in counties with higher vaccination rates. In the last two months, the 10 Michigan counties with the lowest vaccination rates are seeing COVID-19 deaths at twice the rate of the 10 highest vaccinated counties.

The vaccine also appears to be stopping infections. Just in the last week, the county with the lowest new COVID-19 case rate based on population is Leelanau County, which leads the state with more than three-quarters of its eligible population vaccinated.

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