Coronavirus cases continue to decline in Michigan and elsewhere in the county.
Since the first week of January, the 7-day average of new state COVID-19 cases has decreased by 72%. The current average death toll for seven days is 30 per day, compared to 108 on January 9. Hospitalizations have dropped from about 2,600 in the first week of January to 917 as of February 17.
(The graph above shows a 7-day moving average of new coronavirus cases identified in Michigan. You can see the number by hovering over the bar.)
What’s happening, given that many healthcare professionals are aloud and worried about the surge in cases in January and February? Why is the number decreasing?
The general consensus is that several factors are at work. Let’s take a look at these theories.
Cold weather and reduced mobility
Emily Toss Martin, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, said Michigans are unlikely to leave home now that the holidays have passed and the winter weather has arrived.
“This is seen with the flu,” Martin said. “When the road gets worse, people stop going to places, so the flu tends to go down.”
Coronavirus mitigation efforts
Its reduced mobility will be even more pronounced this year due to coronavirus-related restrictions. According to mobility data collected by Google, Michigan has been one of the most declining states in recent weeks, with travel to stores, restaurants and workplaces compared to last winter. Is decreasing the most.
Among the factors contributing to this are restaurants in Michigan that closed in January and are currently limited to a capacity of 25%.
There are also signs that more people are wearing double masking or more effective masks, which also helps reduce transmission.
“I think a lot of people take precautions seriously,” said another UM epidemiologist, Ryan Marosh. “They are wearing masks and doing what they should be doing.”
Part of that was a natural reaction to the coronavirus surge in November and December, Marosh said. “This also happened in the spring. When these huge peaks are reached, people have a higher risk awareness and adjust their behavior more carefully.”
One of the reasons for the low number of cases in Michigan is the low number of people tested. In other words, the number of undetected cases is increasing.
In December, the state conducted an average of about 49,000 coronavirus diagnostic tests daily. This dropped to an average of about 39,400 tests per day in January and further to about 32,400 per day so far in February.
Part of that reduction is simply that fewer cases, fewer exposed people, and need to be tested. However, Marosh suspects that some of this has also shifted public attention from testing to vaccination.
Nevertheless, the positive rate is steadily declining, indicating not only a decline in testing, but also a decline in cases. Five weeks ago, the state’s seven-day average positive rate was 9.5%. Currently it is 3.4%.
On the one hand, only 14% of Michigan’s adult population has been vaccinated at least once, and only 7% have both vaccinated.
“I would be surprised if vaccination still had that effect,” Marosh said. “We haven’t been vaccinated enough yet”, which is a major factor in the downtrend line.
“Vaccinations do help reduce the number of cases,” Marosh said. This is an effect that should snowball as more vaccination programs increase.
More people have innate immunity
The surge in coronavirus cases from mid-October to December means that hundreds of thousands of COVID-19-infected Michiganders have antibodies to the virus, at least for now.
Currently, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 15% of Michigan’s population is infected with the coronavirus. This is an estimate based on serological tests looking for antibodies. 15% of them include unidentified and undiagnosed cases.
Combining that 15% with an increase in the number of vaccinated people significantly reduces the chances of the virus spreading. It’s not herd immunity, but it’s a move in that direction.
Whatever the reason, the declining trend in cases, hospitalizations and deaths is welcome news, Martin said. “It’s exciting.”
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