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First person in Michigan has died due to COVID-19

The first person in Michigan has died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus

Beaumont Health announced Wednesday that a man in his 50s who tested positive for COVID-19 and had other underlying medical conditions died at Beaumont Hospital in Wayne County.

“Our medical team went to extraordinary efforts to care for this patient and we are deeply saddened by his passing and empathize with his family,” Beaumont Health Chief Nursing Officer Susan Grant said in a statement. “Our physicians, nurses and medical staff are all working together to care for COVID-19 patients. During a time like this, we are united to battle this virus. Further, we must continue to serve and care for the non-COVID-19 needs of all patients whether they are giving birth, needing essential surgery or requiring lifesaving emergency procedures.”
The global coronavirus pandemic has killed thousands, and infected hundreds of thousands. As of March 18, at least 8,218 people have died worldwide, including 116 Americans, according to a New York Times database.  

The first two positive cases in Michigan were announced Tuesday, March 10; since then, the total number has grown to 110, according to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

During a press conference Wednesday, Beaumont Health Chief Nursing Officer Susan Grant and Dr. Nick Gilpin, Beaumont Health's medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology, addressed the state's first death without providing many further details. They did, however, warn the public that things would likely get worse before they get better - but the majority of those who become infected with COVID-19 should recover. 

man standing at podium with blue screen behind him
Credit Kate Wells / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Dr. Nick Gilpin speaks at a Beaumont Health press conference on March 18, 2020.

"Just simply being realistic, I think that we're really just seeing the tip of the iceberg here," Gilpin said. "We know, statistically, from other countries and other states that have experienced this on a larger scale than we have so far, that there will be a significant number of critically ill patients. There will be a significant number of patients that will die from COVID-19. But I also want to make sure that we're emphasizing that the vast majority of people who get COVID-19 will recover. And they will recover uneventfully."

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has issued increasingly strict limits on schools, businesses, and other public gathering places in order to limit the spread of the virus. All K-12 schools are closed until Monday, April 6; businesses such as bars, cafes, gyms, and movie theaters have been ordered to suspend operations until Monday, March 30; and universities across the state have transitioned to online classes.

"Mild symptoms, young, relatively healthy people without chronic medical conditions - we don't have the capacity to test all of you. There's a very good chance that many of you may have COVID-19, frankly. And testing you is not going to necessarily make a difference with how we treat you," Gilpin said at the Beaumont Health press conference. "We're going to recommend that you go home. We're going to recommend that you practice social distancing, self-isolation, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, washing all your high-traffic surfaces at home. [...] That's exactly the recommendations we're giving to our patients who are coming to our curbside locations right now."

This is a developing story.

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Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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