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State report: Delta on the rise in Michigan; vaccines still effective despite breakthrough cases

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

A new state report says Michigan is on track to follow other states that have seen COVID-19 surges due to the Delta variant.

The August 23 report from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services notes that Michigan continues to fare well compared to most other states when it comes to COVID-19 and Delta, but state health officials warn the current trend lines point to trouble ahead.

“Michigan cases are growing at similar rates to states with Delta surges,” the report noted. “Michigan rates are about one month behind surges in states with early spread of [the] Delta variant. The Delta wave in Michigan could lead to even more pediatric COVID hospitalizations this fall than we experienced last spring.”

The report notes that COVID-19 case rates in Michigan have been increasing steadily since a low point in late June, since the Delta variant took hold. They are growing across all age groups, and all regions of the state. The state added an average of more than 2100 cases per day over the past two days, and the test positivity rate now stands at 8.8%.

Hospitalizations are also increasing across age groups, and in nearly every region of the state. They grew 29% in the week prior to August 23, with over 1,000 people now hospitalized due to the virus. COVID patients in Intensive Care Units also jumped 26% during that week, to 245.

“If this wave continues to grow and follows growth patterns of prior Michigan waves, we would face growing hospitalizations through September with a peak in October,” the report said.

Delta is now by far the dominant strain of the virus within Michigan, accounting for 99% of all viral samples sequenced in the last four weeks—though the report also notes that the “low number of specimens recently submitted for sequencing limits the ability to estimate the prevalence of variants in Michigan.”

As the Delta variant dominates new infections, there has also been an increase in the number of vaccinated people both testing positive, and being hospitalized. But the same data also shows that vaccines still seem to be overwhelmingly beneficial.

The report says unvaccinated people are still seven times more likely to contract COVID, and 30 times more likely to die from it, than unvaccinated people. In the last thirty days, 79% of cases, 77% of hospitalized cases, and 79% of deaths were among people who were not fully vaccinated.

“The proportion of breakthrough cases and deaths among all cases and deaths has shown some increases as more people become fully vaccinated,” the report states. “However, the risk of infection and death remains significantly lower among the fully vaccinated.”

As of Wednesday, 50% of the state’s population, and 60% of Michigan residents ages 12 older, had received at least one COVID vaccine shot. The number of new vaccinations remains fairly steady, at just under 5,300 first doses per day on average. That’s lower than the national average, which has seen a slight increase in new vaccinations recently.

Correction: A previous version of this article had older 30 day percentages, as seen in MDHHS's presentation. The post has been updated to include the most up-to-date numbers from the past 30 days. New MDHHS slides can be found here.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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