Deaths not a sure thing even as COVID cases rise

Health experts speculate that vaccination rates could keep deaths low even as infections climb.

New cases of COVID-19 have been rising in Michigan for almost three weeks now.

Daily infection numbers had been declining steadily since they peaked in mid-November amid the fall surge of the coronavirus. Just after dropping below 1,000 cases per day in February, they began inching back upward, reaching an average of 1,362 new cases on Wednesday.

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That increase is concerning to health experts who worry that new variants of the coronavirus could lead to a rise in hospitalizations and deaths. That doesn’t seem to be the case so far, however.

Bridge Michigan spoke to public health officials who said vaccinations may be lessening the expected effects of the virus.

“No doubt, we’re seeing the impact of [vaccinations,] and it’s fabulous,” said Linda Vail, the health officer for Ingham County.

Before now, we typically saw a rise in deaths about two weeks after a rise in new infection numbers. That’s what happened in October.

In the week after Halloween, the average of new COVID-19 infections soared by more than 1,000 cases per day. In the following two weeks, the average daily death toll nearly doubled.

The same can’t be said of the present day. Average daily death numbers have actually declined since new infection totals began rising again. That’s happened even as positivity rates and hospitalizations increased.

Still, health officials urge residents not to let their guards down. The vaccines haven’t been proven to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. And with variants on the loose, things could still turn bad if we’re not careful.

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