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State health officials warn: "We're at a point now that we have not seen through this pandemic."

A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Radoslav Zilinsky
Getty Images
A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

State health officials say the highly contagious omicron variant is expected to drive up COVID-19 case numbers through the end of January or early February. The question, they say, is how bad will it get before things start to improve?

That was part of Tuesday’s update on the state’s response to the rapid spread of the omicron variant.

Health officials say omicron is now the dominant strain of the coronavirus in Michigan.

“We’re now at a point that we have not seen in this pandemic,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. “This is the highest number of weekly cases that we’ve ever had. 129,937 weekly cases in Michigan.”

The state also hit a new high this week for adults hospitalized with COVID.

“With the continued transmission of the delta variant and the exponential spread of the even more contagious omicron variant, we are heading toward what will very likely be a very sharp crest in this wave of cases while still seeing our hospitalizations increase,” said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel.

Hertel and other health officials said hospitals are already stressed, and the risk is they’ll become too overwhelmed to treat everyone who needs help.

Dr. Bagdasarian said there are things people can do to mitigate the spread, such as getting vaccinated and boosted, and wearing KN95 masks or double masking in indoor public places.

“So, we have a choice to make,” she said. “Do we want to work on bringing that peak down or do we just want to let that omicron surge explode?”

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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