COVID-19 case numbers might start to decrease in Ingham County, but holiday travel could lead to another spike, Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said in a media briefing Tuesday.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Ingham County reported a total of 9,148 cases and 119 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Of these, around 7,000 cases and all but 40 deaths have occurred since Sept. 1.
County hospitalizations in Sparrow and McLaren health facilities report 171 confirmed and suspected cases with 14 ventilated and 15 in the intensive care unit. While hospitalizations increased sharply in early to mid-October, Vail said they seem to have plateaued somewhere around the 140-150 range, though there has been an increase in the number of emergency department visits over the last few days.
The month of November saw 45 deaths alone, up 16 from last week’s reports. With a total of 50 deaths prior to October, the November total sits at just five deaths less than the seven-month span from March through September.
Currently, the county averages about 10 deaths per week, Vail said.
“We came down off of that really huge spike in cases in September really to kind of start picking up the wave — the beginning of the wave — of the most recent surge in cases,” Vail said. “Which, while also, impacting the (Michigan State University) community to some extent, was really community wide.”
Since July 27, MSU reports 2,153 cases with 1,441 occurring from the weeks of Aug. 31- Sept. 21. In the weeks following, the university saw a continuous decline in cases with a small spike at the beginning of November.
Vail said while there is no way to directly connect the MSU cases to the increase in hospitalizations and deaths reported in November, the science of COVID-19 said surges in cases lead to the delayed indicators of increased hospitalizations and increased deaths.
As September saw this significant increase of transmission across the MSU community, a spike in hospitalizations began shortly after, Vail said.
“Do I have anything that directly ties those things together?" Vail said. "I don’t; most of us don’t. We just know that if we don’t keep COVID in control in the communities, if we have huge surges in cases, outbreaks that run out of control, ultimately what we will see is hospitalizations and deaths.”
With many having traveled for Thanksgiving gatherings, Vail cautioned another potential spike in cases could be coming up.
Two weeks ago, the new Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) guidelines went into effect, restricting and halting in-person gatherings in bars, restaurants, schools and other indoor recreational facilities. Vail said while it is possible these orders had an impact on the current downward trend, case counts had begun decreasing before the lockdown orders went into effect.
As of the last week, Vail said she has not heard any reports of restaurants or bars failing to comply with the new MDHHS orders; however, in the beginning, there had been a couple of incidents the department needed to address and shut down.
Vail sent a letter to Michigan Senate leaders Monday, reminding them to follow COVID-19 guidelines when holding hearings at the Capitol. Vail said members and staffers of the Legislature have expressed concerns about what can be done given the politicization around the rules.
"The letter really pretty much framed it around the legislature is also an employer, as an employer the (Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration) rules for employers are in effect for them as well," Vail said.
As of Tuesday, Vail said the speaker and the Senate majority leader have not yet responded.
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