Michigan’s death toll from the novel coronavirus reached 3,866 on Friday after the state added 77 deaths to its count — the lowest daily tally since Sunday.
The state also confirmed 977 new cases of the illness COVID-19, bringing its cumulative total cases to 42,356, according to state data.
The new case figure was the lowest daily increase in Michigan since Monday and three fewer than the new cases reported Thursday, when the state reached 41,379 cases and 3,789 deaths.
“I remain encouraged by our state’s prospects to fight COVID-19, but make no mistake, this will be a long-term effort,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said at a press briefing Friday.
“COVID-19 will likely change the way we think about our lives for the next year or so.”
Overall, Michigan has been seeing fewer hospitalizations and fewer patients in intensive care units due to COVID-19,but West Michigan is seeing an uptick in virus infection and ICU patients, officials said.
“We continue to see a flattening of cases overall,” said Khaldun, attributing the trend to Michigan’s stay-home order.
“We are still seeing many cases and deaths in our state every single day, and to be clear, we are still in the early months of this outbreak. The threat of having an additional surge, if we do not move forward carefully, is still a concern.”
Kent County, home to Grand Rapids, saw a 48% rise in COVID cases over last week, while Muskegon County had a 41% increase and Ottawa County 23%, she said.
Ten to 20% of COVID tests done in the area are coming back positive, and ICU bed utilization is about 70%, she said.
“Testing has also increased in these areas, which is very good. We also know that if we test more people, we are going to find more disease,” Khaldun said.
“We are going to continue to watch this region of the state, and we’ll be working closely with our local health departments to identify any pockets of outbreaks.”
The rate of infection is slowing in the Metro Detroit counties of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne, including Detroit, accounted for about 71% of Michigan’s cases and 81% of the deaths, through Friday.
This week marked the first time since the state began breaking down cases by county that the Metro Detroit region did not account for a majority of new cases, as other regions of the state see their COVID caseloads grow.
However, counties outside the region again accounted for 52% of Friday’s new caseload.
Detroit surpassed 1,000 deaths from COVID-19, with 1,045 fatalities and nearly 9,200 cases as of Friday, according to city data.
But the city on Friday reported just nine new deaths — the smallest number the city has seen since the outbreak began.
Mayor Mike Duggan said there are more than 800 empty hospital beds in the city, and that parks would reopen for the warm weekend, though families must continue to practice social distancing.
Nursing homes continue to be a concern for state health officials, Khaldun said, with 450 of the state’s facilities reporting 3,047 current COVID cases as of Friday. About three-quarters of those cases are in southeast Michigan.
“We must closely monitor these facilities, because these residents are at higher risk for severe and possibly fatal complications from this virus,” Khaldun said.
Michigan continues to rank seventh in the nation for its number of COVID-19 cases and third for deaths behind New York and New Jersey, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer cited the overall leveling off in new cases when she last week allowed some previously restricted activities to resume in the state, such as golf and motorized boating.
She extended late Thursday her order closing places of public accommodation such as gyms, theaters, bars and casinos through May 28 to help stem the spread of COVID-19, though the GOP-led Legislature disputes the validity of her extension.
The action also limits restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders, though Whitmer has said construction may resume May 7.
Her extended order followed a Thursday protest in Lansing that drew an estimated 800 to 1,000 people to the Capitol, where some entered the statehouse building and demanded to be allowed into the House chamber as lawmakers met.
They called on elected officials to lift restrictions such as Whitmer’s stay-home order, which they see as an infringement on their constitutional rights. Some of the protesters openly carried firearms.
President Donald Trump on Friday tweeted that Whitmer should “give a little.”
“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” Trump wrote. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”
Staff writers Craig Mauger and Sarah Rahal contributed
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