The coronavirus pandemic is reaching new levels of uncontrolled spread in Michigan, including across Greater Lansing, as the state surges past 220,000 COVID-19 cases and 7,700 deaths.
“We are in a stage right now of broad, widespread community transmission of this virus in our community and in most communities in the state and across the nation,” Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail told several reporters Tuesday.
In Greater Lansing, cases have climbed by more than 18% in the last week, including more than 700 cases and nine deaths reported in Ingham County since Election Day, Nov. 3.
Vail said Ingham County, at least compared to more significant spikes in Eaton and Clinton counties, is still “doing fairly well” as it works to mitigate community transmission and keep hospital beds available. Most patients are also not experiencing severe symptoms, she said.
The bulk of local cases are still centered on Michigan State University. East Lansing zip code 48823 alone was tracking about 1,980 cases Tuesday, or about 40% of those in Ingham County.
“Things are kind of on the rise again in East Lansing,” Vail added.
In response, East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens last week extended the city’s State of Emergency and the requirement to wear a mask in all outdoor and indoor public spaces in and near downtown. Violations can be punished by a civil infraction and a fine of up to $25, officials said.
According to a press release from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan could track 100 deaths every day by Christmas if COVID-19 transmission levels remain steady into the winter months. Social distancing and face masks continue to be essential tools to combat the virus, she said.
Among those infected in the last week: A worker at the Ingham County Consolidating Absent Voting Counting Board. Officials said the election worker was asymptomatic but had received a test as a precaution due to potential exposure of a family member. Those who may have been exposed have been notified as County Clerk Barb Byrum pitches in with contact tracing efforts.
Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry is working on a vaccine. Pfizer announced that an early analysis showed that its COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective. Vail labeled the development as “very promising.” She also said the county is prepared to distribute vaccines.
As part of the state’s continued efforts to slow the spread of the virus, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also rolled out a COVID-19 exposure application called “MI COVID Alert.” The anonymous, no-cost software lets users know whether they may have been recently exposed by aggregating voluntary testing information from patients across the state.
Whitmer also announced this week that nearly $100 million had been allocated to 14,000 businesses across Michigan through the Michigan Small Business Restart Program. The grants reportedly helped struggling businesses to retain at least 97,000 jobs during the pandemic.