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Ingham County Health Official cites concern over a potential surge in cases

March 16, 2021
<p>Michigan State University Health Team members testing patients for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing site on April 2, 2020.</p>

Michigan State University Health Team members testing patients for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing site on April 2, 2020.

With St. Patrick’s Day this Wednesday and concerns over a potential surge in case numbers, Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail cautioned against celebrations for the holiday typically met with parties and packed bars.

In East Lansing, current restrictions limit indoor and outdoor gatherings to 15 people in the downtown district and masks remain required at all times. There will be staff around East Lansing ensuring compliance with 15% capacity limits at bars and restaurants and identifying parties and gatherings to monitor compliance with gathering restrictions.

Though case numbers may appear to plateau, a gradual increase in cases gives reason for caution, Vail said. According to the Center for Disease Control director, plateaus and a slight increase in cases have led to surges in the past, though there is hope the vaccine efforts will help in mitigation of these risks.  

“I saw that plateauing happening at really probably three or four-fold what we saw when we kind of dropped to probably our lowest level in mid-pandemic, which was just a small window of time in June. That would be a baseline that we should be striving for and when we are three to four-fold above that baseline and also plateauing that is a concern. Every time we have plateaued at those kinds of levels before, we have seen surges afterwards,” Vail said.

There are currently 16,228 COVID-19 cases and 282 deaths to date in Ingham County. Current hospitalizations at Sparrow and McLaren Health Systems total 41 confirmed and suspected cases, with three ventilated and five in the intensive care unit. Of the new cases in the last week, Vail said as much as 14-15% of cases were related to Michigan State University.  

As COVID-19 vaccine efforts continue throughout the state and the county, current numbers show 58,026 Ingham County residents having received at least their first dose, with 49,360 having been administered by the Ingham County Health Department (ICHD). Of these, 29,801 are age 65 and over, accounting for roughly 76% of all seniors in the county.

The goal remains to vaccinate 70% of all Ingham County residents age 16 and over in 2021. To date, the county has vaccinated 34.3% of all residents though 60% are not yet eligible for the vaccination.

Vaccine availability opened recently for those aged 50 and over who had not been previously eligible. On March 22, high-risk patients above the age of 16 will be eligible and all residents above 16 years will be eligible by April 5. 

“As we start to go down in age groups, we start to see a little bit less of that intense desire to get vaccinated now in large parts of the population,” Vail said. “We are getting a lot of people vaccinated, we do know there’s still a lot of people who have been waiting and waiting a long time and are just happy as can be to be able to be vaccinated right now. We see tears of joy when we vaccinate people oftentimes just after all of this time.”

With about a dozen cases of the B.1.1.7 variant confirmed in Ingham County, Vail said the increase in transmissibility highlights the importance of adhering to COVID-19 guidelines and travel quarantines.

Michigan State University confirmed the presence of the B.1.1.7. coronavirus variant in East Lansing on Tuesday according to an email from university President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

The real concern is the need to be more diligent in prevention efforts, though Vail said the most important messaging is to not be scared of a variant. As with all RNA viruses, a mutation is not unexpected.

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