Whitmer declares disaster as Michigan COVID-19 deaths jump to 337

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan again recorded its largest single-day increase in both deaths and confirmed cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, with 78 more people killed for a statewide total of 337.

One of the 78 deaths on Tuesday was in Kent County. No additional details surrounding that patient were released by the Kent County Health Department Wednesday.

Most of the deaths, however, have been in metro Detroit. Wayne County has seen 146 people die, Oakland County 99 and Macomb County 51. Washtenaw and Genesee counties have had eight deaths each.

The dead range in age from 25 to 107, with an average age of about 71. Sixty-four percent were men and 36% women.

The results of Tuesday’s coronavirus tests, released Wednesday afternoon, confirmed more than 1,700 additional cases for a total of 9,334. People in every age range are contracting it.

Some 4,470 of the overall cases are in hard-hit Wayne County (including Detroit); 1,910 are in Oakland County and 1,088 in Macomb County. Washtenaw County has 401 confirmed cases and Genesee County 249.

Tuesday’s tests brought Kent County’s total confirmed cases to 119, 11 more than the day prior. Thirty-six of the cases are at a nursing home in Cedar Springs: 31 residents and five employees. Spectrum Health has also said one of the patients is an employee at Spectrum Health Rehab and Nursing Center who has been in quarantine for more than a week. No patients at the nursing center have tested positive for the illness.

Berrien County added three new cases for 38, Calhoun County six more for a total of 23 and Kalamazoo County six more for a total of 30. Ottawa County’s numbers remained steady at 31. Cass County has confirmed six cases and one death.

The Michigan Department of Corrections is dealing with 142 cases, nearly 50 more than the day previous.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services lab, plus hospital and commercial labs, have tested 29,324 samples for coronavirus. Of those, 22,054 have come back negative and 7,158 positive. The number of positive tests doesn’t equal the number of cases because some people were tested twice and some tests were run out of state. Health officials have noted that the number of test kits available is limited. Not everyone displaying symptoms is going to get tested.

The state does not have a figure for how many people have recovered from coronavirus. Many of the people who test positive aren’t hospitalized, making it hard for the state to determine how many of them are better.

According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, Michigan has the fourth highest number of confirmed cases in the country, behind New York, New Jersey and California. New York and New Jersey are the only states that have recorded more deaths linked to the virus.


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday declared a state of disaster in Michigan, saying in a release that the executive order acknowledges the widespread “economic, educational and civic dislocation caused by the COVID-19, and equips the administration to fully address the devastation caused by the virus.”

“Today’s action will allow my administration to respond more effectively to every facet of this crisis,” Whitmer stated in part. “During this time, it’s crucial that Michiganders continue to stay home and keep their distance from others. We will get through this together.”

She had declared a state of emergency March 10, the day Michigan recorded its first two cases of coronavirus. On Wednesday, she sent a letter to the leaders of the state Legislature, Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Mike Shirkey, asking them to pass a resolution extending the emergency and disaster declarations for 70 days.

Also Wednesday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services asked the federal government for permission to waive certain Medicaid requirements in a bid to provide more care for vulnerable populations during the pandemic.

Michigan wants to:

  • Suspend the need for new prior authorization requests for medical services and extending existing prior authorization agreements.
  • Streamline enrollment for Medicaid providers and allow approved out-of-state providers to begin serving beneficiaries quickly.
  • Allow telephonic healthcare services as part of telehealth/telemedicine delivery.
  • Waive quantity limits on durable medical equipment, medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.
  • Remove limitations on providers to allow qualified physician assistants and nurses to treat COVID-19 patients.

The state says President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration lets the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services OK such moves. Once the emergency is over, the waivers would end.

Whitmer has ordered all Michigan residents to stay at home unless they must leave to perform essential services or errands. The goal of the measure is to keep the number of severe cases low enough that hospitals will be able to keep up. In places like Italy, Spain and New York City, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, hospital systems have been stretched past their limits. State officials say Detroit hospitals are at or nearing capacity.

One of the first moves the governor made to slow the spread of the virus was to shut down K-12 schools; Whitmer said Tuesday that she expected to make an announcement about the remainder of the school year Thursday. She has called a morning press conference.

COVID-19 generally presents with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. For most who contract it, symptoms are mild. Though anyone can get it and anyone can develop a serious case, the people most at risk to develop severe complications are the elderly and those with preexisting health problems. If you think you have coronavirus, call your health care provider. Unless you are in need of emergency help, do not go to the emergency room. Get advice from a doctor over the phone or a televisit and they will direct you on how to get tested.