Coronavirus curve bends in metro Detroit, but west side of state experiences outbreaks


John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit.

The coronavirus claimed the lives of 36 Michigan residents over the past day, one of the lowest one-day increases in more than a month.

The state now has 4,179 deaths and more than 44,000 positive cases.

Michigan has seen a steady decline in coronavirus deaths for two straight weeks. From April 21-27, 847 residents died from COVID-19. And in the past week, 612 people have died, a 28% decline in weekly deaths.

For 19 straight days, the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital has dropped from 3,986 to 1,948, a 51% decrease. During the same period, the number of patients on a ventilator also declined 51%, from 1,365 to 670.

Michigan is also making progress with testing, which is critical to reopening the economy. Between Wednesday and Saturday, the latest date for which statistics are available, the state averaged nearly 11,000 tests a day, nearly twice the daily average in April. The goal is to reach 15,000 tests and expand testing for asymptomatic employees who are returning to work, says Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical officer.

“One of the most important things we can do is increase our testing, and that’s the only way we’re going to be able to really know where this disease is so we can appropriately isolate cases and prevent the spread,” Khaldun said at a news conference Monday.


Despite the progress, Khaldun said she’s worried about outbreaks in western Michigan. In the past 10 days, the number of coronavirus cases more than doubled in Kent County, from 929 to 1,914.

During the same period, bordering Ottawa County saw a 64% spike in new cases. In Kalamazoo, the number of new cases rose 67%. Berrien County saw a 47% increase, and Muskegon reported a 41% spike.

By comparison, metro Detroit's new cases increased 2.3% in the past 10 days.

State-run jails are also experiencing a significant rise in new cases and deaths. Over the past three weeks, the number of new cases among inmates has more than quadrupled, from 429 to 1,898. During the same period, the number of deaths jumped from nine to 48. Inmates filed a class-action lawsuit last week, accusing the Michigan Department of Corrections of failing to adequately protect them.

In Detroit, the epicenter of the coronavirus in Michigan, 26 residents died in the past three days, which is fewer than nine a day and less than any three-day period in more than a month.

“The number is growing much more slowly than before, but it is no less painful to the people in this community fighting this disease,” Mayor Mike Duggan said Tuesday. "The key to everything we’ve done is testing.”

The city has tested every nursing-home resident and is now requiring all grocery-store workers to get tested. At the former Michigan State Fairgrounds, the city has also extended testing for employees who interact with the public.

The rate of new cases and deaths in metro Detroit has declined substantially in the first five days of May. During that period, Wayne County saw 421 positive cases and 143 new deaths, bringing its total fatalities to 1,945.

In Oakland County, the number of new deaths in the first five days of May was 15, pushing its total to 772. The county now has 7,522 positive cases.

Macomb County’s death toll rose from 628 to 647 during the same period. The county now has 5,789 positive cases.

Khaldun urged residents to continue staying vigilant to avoid a second surge. 

“While the overall rate of rise in cases is slowing and people are beating this disease, this is not a reason to become complacent,” she said. “Social distancing, staying home unless you absolutely have to go out, wearing a mask when you’re out in public, and washing hands frequently remains very important.”

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