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Michigan epidemiologist says COVID increase is like “a rise in the water level”


State officials are warning that Michigan could see 100-deaths per day due to COVID-19 if steps aren’t taken to stem the rise of the virus.

Ben Thorp talked with Epidemiologist, Dr. Emily Martin about the rise in numbers and what it means for the state.

Ben Thorp: Emily, talk to me about the spread that we’re seeing right now.

Emily Martin: So in the state of Michigan we are seeing pretty explosive growth of cases. There are a few things about the pattern that is especially concerning. One is that all regions are going up which is very different from what we experienced in the spring. What we saw in the spring was these hotspot patterns. What we’re seeing now in Michigan is like a rise in the water level, is how I’d characterize it. Rates are going up everywhere.

As more and more hospitals start to raise alert signals that hospitalizations are going up it’s going to be a problem where the stress is felt across the state instead of one area of the state. It’s going to be harder to manage.

Ben Thorp: What can we expect a month from now if this is where we are at in terms of hospitalizations and cases?

Emily Martin: The issue is that the initial increases we were seeing were in younger age groups that don’t tend to be hospitalized as often. Now we’re seeing infections across the board in all different age groups. What that does is obviously hospitalizations are going to go up but it’s not just the hospitalizations themselves. We’re seeing more infections in working aged adults which means people that run the hospitals are getting infections in the community and then are not available for the surge level care that might be needed.

Ben Thorp: Can we talk about what this means moving forward. Is there a concern here that we won’t be able to stem the increase that we’re seeing?

Emily Martin: It’s going to be difficult to do it on a community by community basis because of the interconnectedness of things and because everybody is going up. We’re seeing public health capacity being strained in a lot of different communities so it’s hard for one organization to step in and help another organization when everyone is feeling this stress.

I know there need to be some discussions about what else we can do mitigation wise through policy. We already have pretty expansive mask recommendations but what other tools do we have available to slow things down going into the winter.

Ben Thorp: Obviously the Governor doesn’t have the same executive powers that she had during our last surge. From republicans at least so far we haven’t seen a huge appetite to put a lot of new restrictions in place. What kind of capacity do we have to make changes happen?

Emily Martin: I think what concerns me is the fact that we need to be able to act quickly in a situation like this when cases are rising. The more complex we make the mechanisms for applying policy the harder it is to make those mechanisms work quickly. That is definitely a concern.