State official: COVID numbers moving in the right direction

During a Wednesday update, a state health official said most COVID measurements are encouraging, but warned of possible Christmas and New Year's spikes.

Daily numbers of new COVID-19 infections are decreasing. The same is true of statewide hospitalization numbers. Positivity rates are also declining in Michigan and most counties. Overall, pandemic reduction efforts seem to be having a positive effect in the state.

That message of hope was delivered by Sarah Lyon-Callo, the director of the state’s Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health, during a press briefing Wednesday.

“We’re seeing encouraging signs in terms of the case rates, the positivity rates and the hospital numbers coming down,” she said. “It’s very important that we maintain those gains.”

The Good News: Data shows that an expected surge of new coronavirus infections after Thanksgiving never happened. That suggests state residents did a good job of staying away from large gatherings.

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Lyon-Callo pointed to other specific measures that show COVID-19 regressing over the past month.

  • New case numbers have been in decline for the past 29 days, dropping 27.5% in just the past week.
  • The state’s positivity rate has dropped from 16% at the start of the month to less than 8% on Wednesday.
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations have been steadily declining since the end of November.

The Bad News: Deaths from COVID-19 haven’t declined. Michigan surpassed 100 deaths per day on December 3 and that has stayed high since then.

One optimistic note is that deaths are a lagging indicator of the coronavirus. People who died from COVID-19 in the past few days likely contracted the virus weeks ago when new infection numbers were still rising.

The past few days have seen a slight decline in average daily deaths. On Wednesday, Michigan had an average of 108 deaths over the previous week. That’s down from a high of 117 deaths per day on December 18.

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A Warning: Lyon-Callo warned that two upcoming holidays could change the trajectory of COVID-19 stats. People gathering for Christmas and New Year’s Eve could cause new infections to spike just as they were subsiding.

Social distancing and staying home “will be important during this holiday season as well,” she said. “So we’ll be watching those numbers to see if there is any case surge.”

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