Michigan medical professionals are analyzing the recent surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the state of Michigan. Isaac Mangold/Daily. Buy this photo.

Compared to the rest of the country, the state of Michigan now has the highest number of COVID-19 cases. As positive cases and hospitalizations throughout the state continue to increase, Michigan medical professionals are analyzing the current surge.

While officials in the Biden administration recommended that Michigan shut down again in response to the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has not yet, and has instead called for more vaccines. Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said vaccines alone are not sufficient to stem the spread of COVID-19 at this point in time. 

Vaccine distribution has been ramping up over the past few weeks after the state of Michigan allowed all adults over the age of 16 to get vaccinated starting April 5. Dr. Robert Hyzy, clinical professor and medical director in the critical care medicine unit at Michigan Medicine, said he does not believe this surge is due to a lack of vaccinations, as he has not seen the number of vaccines distributed in Michigan change since cases have recently increased. 

Nearly a year ago at the beginning and “peak” of the pandemic, the surge then was different in that hospital capacity was more strained, Hyzy explained in an email to The Michigan Daily.

“A year ago, over half of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients were in intensive care units and we had to increase our ICU capacity significantly, opening two temporary adult ICUs in Mott Children’s Hospital,” Hyzy said. “We had over 160 patients on ventilators the first week of April 2020. Now the ratio is about 25-30% are ICU level.”

Dr. Hallie Prescott, associate professor of internal medicine and physician in the division of pulmonary and critical medicine, wrote in an email to The Daily there are multiple reasons why cases are higher in Michigan now than they were last spring. She also wrote hospitalizations are probably a better metric to compare COVID severity between surges as opposed to positive cases, as testing wasn’t as available last  spring.

“Cases are higher now, but it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison since cases are also reflective of testing, which was lower last spring,” Prescott wrotel. “A fairer comparison is probably hospitalizations, which are higher now (statewide) compared to Spring 2020 (wave 1) or Fall 2020 (wave 2). However, we have fewer people hospitalized with COVID at U-M now than last spring since the Spring 2020 (wave 1) surge was mostly concentrated in Southeast Michigan, whereas cases and hospitalizations are now spread throughout the state.”

Prescott wrote she is “hesitant” to say the recent surge is due to a lack of vaccines, since cases and hospitalizations were able to be controlled last summer even before vaccines were readily available. Prescott credited the surge to COVID-19 variants and relaxed compliance with public health measures. 

According to Prescott, Michigan would be in an even worse situation without vaccines being distributed at the rate that they are, and as of Tuesday about 45% of the Michigan population over the age of 16 has received at least one dose. However, Prescott said we will not reach full herd immunity until the vaccine is completely available to all. 

“The surge is multifactorial, and would almost certainly be worse without vaccines,” Prescott wrote. “Vaccines are being given as fast as possible, but we are not yet at herd immunity levels — and likely won’t be able to reach herd immunity until vaccines are approved for children. Importantly, we have been able to control spread in Michigan in the past before vaccines were available.”

As vaccine availability increases, with  the University of Michigan now also offering vaccines to all students, many are taking the opportunity to get their vaccine to combat the surge in the state of Michigan. LSA freshman Maya Weinbaum shared her experience getting her vaccine. Weinbaum did not get vaccinated through the university and explained how easy the process was to obtain her first dose and that she felt very grateful to have the opportunity to be vaccinated.

“I received my first dose of the Moderna vaccine two weeks ago, and will be returning for my second dose in early May,” Weinbaum said. “I believe it is extremely important for students to get vaccinated, especially as positive cases are increasing.” 

Looking ahead to prevent another surge in cases, Prescott recommended getting vaccinated as soon as you have the opportunity and avoiding indoor gatherings without masks. 

Daily Staff Reporter Kaitlyn Luckoff can be reached at kluckoff@umich.edu.