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Michigan surpasses 70% vaccination rate even as COVID-19 cases continue rise

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Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

More than 70% of Michiganders age 16 and up have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the state department of health and human services said this week. But that milestone comes even as some parts of the state battle their worst pandemic surge yet.

The most recent data from the federal Centers for Disease Control shows Michigan now leads the nation in new COVID-19 cases per person.

Some hospitals have reported to the state that their beds are completely full.

“We’ve been in the middle of a big surge,” said Scott Izzo, the community health director at District Health Department No. 2 in northeast Michigan. “Hospitals are getting hit.”

The seemingly never-ending increase in cases is leading to burnout among hospital workers, just as the health care system needs them the most.

But things are not equal across the state. In Bay County, health officer Joel Strasz said the worst of the surge might have passed locally.

Still, he said, “a lot of people want to think, ‘Well, this thing is over.’ No, it’s not over, by any means.”

Strasz said about 30% of eligible people in Bay County have gotten a booster shot. “We need to get more people to get their booster doses,” he said.

Health officials said the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus is so formidable that even small gaps in vaccine coverage can open the door to new outbreaks.

Strasz said he wants to see more people fully vaccinated before the holidays -- but the deadline to achieve full immunity is approaching quickly because the vaccines take time to become effective in the body.

“If you’re doing a two-dose vaccine, you basically have until the end of the week to start that process,” said Strasz.

Previously, holidays have led to nationwide spikes in infections. But this time, they don’t have to, Strasz said.

“We have the tools in front of us. We have to use them, so if you’re not fully vaccinated, get fully vaccinated. If you need to go get a booster dose, go get a booster dose. If you’re concerned about the wellbeing of yourself and others, then rapid-test yourself.”

Strasz said rapid tests are especially important for people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19. He said a positive test should mean staying home to avoid spreading the virus further.