COVID-19 surge in Michigan: Data, strategies and vaccine rollout

Recently, the state of Michigan has seen a drastic spike in the number of Covid-19 cases, all while the state continues its monumental efforts in the rollout of the coronavirus vaccines. As of April 17, the state has been leading the nation in per capita cases of Covid-19, and 10% of the nation’s cases are from Michigan. Michigan hospitals have seen a 30% increase in admissions. The state’s positivity rate is at 7.09% as of April 17, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Although there is a dramatic spike in cases, no new restrictions were put in place, but Governor Whitmer urged residents to take necessary precautions and to limit the number of interactions with groups of people, such as at indoor restaurants, while cases have been increasing at an alarming rate. In a press conference, Whitmer added, “There’s light at the end of this tunnel, but the recent rise in cases is a reminder that we are still in the tunnel. That’s the nature of this virus, the second we let our guard down it comes roaring back.”

Hope College also saw a large spike in cases around the Easter holiday, reflective of the greater trends of the state. On April 6, Hope experienced an all-time daily high of 24 positive cases. Additionally, the positivity rate spiked up to 7.5% with 123 active cases the week of April 9. These metrics prompted President Scogin to send a message through a Campus Health email adding, “As we approach the end of the semester, it is clear that COVID-19 is not going away without one last fight. We can do this. We can rally together, we can work hard over these next 30 days to make it to exam week and, ultimately, commencement. I am counting on you, your classmates are counting on you, and your staff and faculty are counting on you.” As of April 16, Hope’s positivity rate is 2.1% and there are 75 active cases currently.

Additionally, the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant that originated from the UK has further complicated matters. The new variant is significantly more transmissible and has spread at a much faster rate than other variants. According to the CDC, 70% of new cases in Michigan were the B.1.1.7 variant. The new variant shows no signs of being more deadly or a more severe illness than other strains, according to The Lancet, however it has shown to have an increased viral load, evidence of its increased transmissibility. The B.1.1.7 variant has not been shown to make vaccines less effective in comparison to other strains. 

Michigan has largely focused its Covid-19 strategy around vaccinating as many people as possible. According to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, 22.5% of Michigan residents are fully vaccinated, and although this is significant, it is still far from the governor’s goal of 70% of Michigan residents vaccinated over the summer. Officials also warn that even after receiving their final doses, it still takes two weeks for full immunity to finally kick in. Therefore, fully vaccinated individuals must remain vigilant after receiving their final dose, and experts have cautioned fully vaccinated individuals to continue practicing Covid safeguards to protect the greater community. Although 23.6% of Americans have been fully vaccinated as of April 17, the goal of reaching herd immunity is still farther away, with at least 70% of Americans needing to be vaccinated to reach a low level of herd immunity. Experts stress that a high level of herd immunity is necessary to maintain safety in the community. Although a level of about 70% would allow almost everyone to go back to “normal”, higher percentages of fully vaccinated people would make it significantly safer and give communities a greater threshold of safety.

Vaccine inequality has also been a heavily discussed issue surrounding the vaccination efforts of multiple countries. Two dimensions of vaccine inequality exist, with inequality within and between countries. Within the US, there are some racial disparities across vaccine distribution. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, communities of color in the US are still getting disproportionate vaccine distribution, noting that, “…there is a consistent pattern across states of Black and Hispanic people receiving smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their shares of cases and deaths and compared to their shares of the total population.” Globally, wealthy countries, with a fifth of the world’s adult population, own more than half of all purchased vaccines, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which adds, “The disparity is even more pronounced when looking at the share who could be vaccinated. While enough vaccine doses have been purchased to cover more than 80% of the adult population, high-income countries own enough doses to vaccinate more than twice their populations while LMICs can only cover one-third.”

These inequalities could lead to major setbacks in getting things to go “back to normal” in places where Covid-19 is still able to spread rapidly due to a lack of vaccinations and other safeguards, each time the virus spreads an opportunity for a new mutation can occur. Therefore, even though current vaccines prove effective against the current known variants, new variants that could emerge may end up being more severe and possibly able to resist vaccines, creating a whole new layer to the already destructive pandemic. This setback could lead to delays in global vaccination efforts, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “…it is estimated that there will not be enough vaccine doses to cover the world’s population until at least 2023.”

And in a setback for the nation’s vaccination campaign, the CDC called for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines to be temporarily paused on April 13. Approximately six people suffered from blood clots after receiving the vaccine, prompting officials to halt its distribution while CDC and FDA investigations are made. However, seven million others have received the vaccine with no significant side effects. 

Hope is also moving forward in its vaccination campaign, with 550 Hope college students and staff vaccinated the first day. The on-campus clinic plans to continue administering the Moderna vaccine until April 20.

Claire Dwyer ('24) is a current Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Anchor. Joining as a News Writer fall of a freshman year, she has enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the campus community through journalism!

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