LANSING, Mich. – Michigan’s most recent COVID-19 order has issued, extended and then revised tighter restrictions on the state over the past six weeks. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says the order has greatly improved the COVID-19 situation in Michigan, but does that timeline actually line up?
Before MDHHS order
In the weeks leading up to the order announced by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Nov. 15, the state’s case rates were on an alarming rise.
From Sept. 12 through Sept. 29, Michigan never had a daily case total above 1,000. (Keep in mind that Monday case releases were for two days, so while many of those were over 1,000, none of the Mondays during that span announced 2,000 cases, so the daily average never went over 1,000.)
- Sept. 12 — 692 new cases
- Sept. 14 — 1,088 new cases (case count for two days — daily average of 544 cases)
- Sept. 15 — 571 new cases
- Sept. 16 — 680 new cases
- Sept. 17 — 829 new cases
- Sept. 18 — 695 new cases
- Sept. 19 — 483 new cases
- Sept. 21 — 1,536 new cases (case count for two days — daily average of 768 cases)
- Sept. 22 — 504 new cases
- Sept. 23 — 705 new cases
- Sept. 24 — 982 new cases
- Sept. 25 — 929 new cases
- Sept. 26 — 901 new cases
- Sept. 28 — 1,308 new cases (case count for two days — daily average of 654 cases)
- Sept. 29 — 898 new cases
But as the calendar turned to October, the number of new cases started to skyrocket. On Oct. 7, the state reported 1,016 new cases, and the daily total has remained above 1,000 cases ever since. (NOTE: The two-day total for Oct. 12 was 1,809, meaning the average for those two days was 904.5 cases per day.)
By Halloween, Michigan was reporting nearly 4,000 cases per day and breaking the daily record multiple times per week.
- Oct. 7 — 1,016 new cases
- Oct. 8 — 1,197 new cases
- Oct. 9 — 1,095 new cases
- Oct. 10 — 1,522 new cases
- Oct. 12 — 1,809 new cases (case count for two days)
- Oct. 13 — 1,237 new cases
- Oct. 14 — 1,359 new cases
- Oct. 15 — 2,030 new cases (case count inflated due to system slowdown)
- Oct. 16 — 2,015 new cases
- Oct. 17 — 1,791 new cases
- Oct. 19 — 2,909 new cases (case count for two days)
- Oct. 20 — 1,586 new cases
- Oct. 21 — 1,597 new cases
- Oct. 22 — 1,873 new cases
- Oct. 23 — 1,826 new cases
- Oct. 24 — 3,338 new cases
- Oct. 26 — 3,881 new cases (case count for two days)
- Oct. 27 — 2,367 new cases
- Oct. 28 — 3,271 new cases
- Oct. 29 — 3,675 new cases (case count inflated due to network connectivity issues)
- Oct. 30 — 3,168 new cases
- Oct. 31 — 3,792 new cases
On Oct. 13, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive for MDHHS, reported what was then considered a steep rise in COVID-19 numbers. She reported all three of the state’s main metrics — case rate, hospitalization and percent positivity, had risen over the past week.
- Case rate rose from 81.6 to 89 cases per million people per day.
- Hospitalizations increased from 586 to 698 statewide.
- Percent positivity rose from 3.4% to 3.6%.
Eight days later (Oct. 21), Khaldun reported even sharper rises in all three metrics.
- Case rate rose to 131 cases per million people per day.
- Hospitalizations saw an increase in “all regions of the state.”
- Percent positivity rose to 4.9%.
Khaldun returned to the podium Oct. 29 and called the state’s COVID-19 trends “incredibly concerning.”
- Case rate rose to 172 cases per million people per day.
- Hospitalizations increased in all regions, especially the Grand Rapids and Detroit regions.
- Percent positivity rose to 5.5%.
On Nov. 5, the numbers kept growing exponentially.
- Case rate rose to 261 cases per million people per day.
- More than 1,900 people statewide were in the hospital because of COVID-19.
- Percent positivity spike to 7.5%.
“We have models that estimate that at the rate we’re going — if we don’t do anything else, if we don’t change our behaviors — we could be seeing up to 100 deaths a day by the end of December,” Khaldun said at the time.
The spread of COVID-19 in Michigan reached a breaking point for hospital officials on Nov. 12, and they got together for a virtual discussion about the dire situation. You can read some of the stories from that discussion below.
In the two weeks leading up to the announcement of MDHHS’s restrictions, Michigan saw its daily COVID-19 case releases — which were already at record levels — more than double.
- Nov. 2 — 6,709 new cases (case count for two days)
- Nov. 3 — 3,106 new cases
- Nov. 4 — 4,101 new cases
- Nov. 5 — 5,710 new cases
- Nov. 6 — 3,763 new cases
- Nov. 7 — 6,225 new cases
- Nov. 9 — 9,010 new cases (case count for two days)
- Nov. 10 — 6,473 new cases
- Nov. 11 — 6,008 new cases
- Nov. 12 — 6,940 new cases
- Nov. 13 — 8,516 new cases
- Nov. 14 — 7,072 new cases
Nov. 15: MDHHS announces order
On Nov. 15 — a Sunday evening — Michigan officials announced stricter COVID-19 regulations involving restaurants, bars, high schools, colleges, in-person working and more.
Stories from the announcement:
The announcement came on the heels of by far Michigan’s worst week of COVID-19 spread. From Tuesday through Saturday, Michigan averaged 7,001.8 cases per day.
Most notably, the order shut down indoor dining at restaurants, in-person classes for college and high school students and on-site working for anyone who could perform their jobs from home.
Organized sports were shut down. Casinos, movie theaters, stadiums, arenas bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, bingo halls, arcades and indoor water parks were shuttered.
Nov. 18: Order takes effect
The new order officially went into effect the following Wednesday (Nov. 18). It was set to last through Dec. 8 — exactly three weeks.
Here’s how the daily case rate looked during the initial weeks of the order:
- Nov. 16 — 12,763 new cases (case count for two days)
- Nov. 17 — 7,458 new cases
- Nov. 18 — 5,772 new cases
- Nov. 19 — 7,592 new cases
- Nov. 20 — 9,779 new cases
- Nov. 21 — 7,528 new cases
- Nov. 23 — 11,511 new cases (case count for two days)
- Nov. 24 — 6,290 new cases
- Nov. 25 — 4,273 new cases
- Nov. 27 — 17,162 new cases (case count for two days)
- Nov. 28 — 8,080 new cases
- Nov. 30 — 10,428 new cases (case count for two days)
- Dec. 1 — 5,793 new cases
- Dec. 2 — 6,955 new cases
- Dec. 3 — 7,146 new cases
- Dec. 4 — 8,689 new cases
- Dec. 5 — 6,004 new cases
- Dec. 7 — 9,350 new cases (case count for two days)
- Dec. 8 — 5,909 new cases
As the numbers show, the new restrictions didn’t immediately do much, if anything, to slow the spread of the virus. Two days after the order went into effect, Michigan reported 9,779 cases on Nov. 20 — a number that still stands as the state’s highest single-day total.
On Nov. 19, Khaldun took the podium and said the state’s hospitals were 79% full. She said case, positivity and hospitalization rates were reaching alarming levels, and suggested the health system could soon get overwhelmed.
But considering the incubation period for COVID-19, the fluctuating numbers at the end of November and into December weren’t exactly an accurate indicator of the order’s effectiveness. On top of that, Thanksgiving travel and gatherings added another variable into the mix.
Toward the end of this period, Khaldun offered the first signs of optimism, saying Michigan’s COVID-19 numbers were slowing trending in the right direction.
“Overall, our case rate is now at 608 cases per million people, and has been declining for the past week,” Khaldun said.
Test positivity also declined, dropping from 14% on Nov. 16 to 13% to start December, she said.
Dec. 7: Order extended
One day before the original order was set to expire, Whitmer announced the restrictions would be extended for 12 days, citing the state’s desire to gauge the impact of Thanksgiving on the spread of COVID-19.
The extension kept rules from the existing order in place through Dec. 20.
Here’s how the case rates responded over that time period:
- Dec. 8 — 5,909 new cases
- Dec. 9 — 4,905 new cases
- Dec. 10 — 5,937 new cases
- Dec. 11 — 5,157 new cases
- Dec. 12 — 4,486 new cases
- Dec. 14 — 7,205 new cases (case count for two days)
- Dec. 15 — 4,730 new cases
- Dec. 16 — 4,037 new cases
- Dec. 17 — 4,024 new cases
- Dec. 18 — 4,180 new cases
- Dec. 19 — 3,896 new cases
At this point, while the metrics were still far too high, there was an undeniable downward trend. The seven-day average dropped from near 8,000 in mid-November to below 4,500 by mid-December.
Khaldun echoed the positive signs, saying all three key metrics were heading in the right direction, as of Dec. 15.
Michigan was down to 560 cases per million people, a number that was trending downward for 22 straight days, Khaldun said. Case rates for all eight geographical regions were on the decline, she said.
Overall, 18.5% of hospital beds in the state had COVID-19 patients in them, which was also declining, according to Khaldun.
Percent positivity was down to 12.3%, Khaldun said. That number had been declining for seven straight days.
“That means many Michiganders did their part in keeping the spread of the virus down over the Thanksgiving holiday,” Khaldun said. “We showed that we care about ourselves, our families and our community. Let’s keep doing that.”
Dec. 18: Order revised, extended again
The progress Michigan made during the extension led to a revision of the original order in mid-December, but officials still decided to extend restrictions for about another month.
On Dec. 18, Michigan revised the MDHHS order to reopen certain entertainment facilities and in-person classes.
Indoor venues where people could remain masked and socially distanced — movie theaters, stadiums, bowling alleys, casinos — were allowed reopen without food or drink concessions, as of Dec. 21.
High school students were allowed to return to class on that same date, though most were heading toward winter break.
Restrictions stayed the same for restaurants, however, and were extended to Jan. 15.
The overarching theme of the revision was clear: Officials want to eliminate situations in which Michiganders are indoors with people from different households without masks. That meant no indoor dining at restaurants, and not eating or drinking at entertainment venues, because that requires the removal of masks.
In the 10 days since the revised order was announced, here’s how the COVID-19 rates have responded:
- Dec. 21 — 4,551 new cases (case count for two days — 2275.5 cases per day, on average)
- Dec. 22 — 3,082 new cases
- Dec. 23 — 3,443 new cases
- Dec. 26 — 7,341 new cases (case count for three days — 2,447 cases per day, on average)
- Dec. 28 — 3,239 new cases (case count for two days — 1,619.5 cases per day, on average)
- Dec. 29 — 3,414 new cases
On Tuesday morning (Dec. 29), Khaldun said the case rate has dropped to 279 cases per million people per day. That rate has been on the decline for more than 38 days, she said.
Test positivity is down to 8.4%, a number that has been declining for “multiple weeks,” according to Khaldun.
Only 13.8% of inpatient beds are being used for COVID-19 patients, which is down from 16.5% at last update, the state reports.
Even the death rate has started to decline, with the state averaging 107 deaths per day in the last week, compared to 123 the previous week.
Michigan’s new COVID-19 order now in effect: Here’s what’s reopened and what’s still closed
Are the improved numbers a direct result of the state’s order? It’s impossible to know, but the decrease in reported case, hospitalization and positivity rates do largely align with the issuance of MDHHS restrictions.
“Now, because of the actions that we’ve taken, and because so many Michiganders have done their part, our numbers are better than all of our Midwestern neighbors,” Whitmer said Tuesday. “These numbers are encouraging.”
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