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Michigan's COVID-19 delta variant surge might be on its way out, experts say

Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press on

Published in News & Features

DETROIT — Michigan's fourth coronavirus surge, driven by the highly contagious delta variant, may be starting to retreat after more than three months of a steady rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 3,210 on Monday — about 500 new daily cases fewer than at the Oct. 13 peak, when the seven-day average topped out at 3,745 daily cases.

Though the trends are encouraging, it may be too soon to declare it over just yet, said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state health department's newly appointed chief medical officer.

"Time will tell," Bagdasarian told the Free Press on Tuesday.

That's because transmission of the virus remains high in every county in the state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's thresholds.

And even though Michigan has now seen nearly two weeks of steady declines in new daily cases, the percentage of positive tests also remains high — plateauing at a seven-day average of about 11.3% over the last two weeks. Hospitalizations from the virus appear to be leveling off as well.

 

"With some of these indicators, there can be a delay, and we can see plateaus, and even slight dips, and then a rise again," said Bagdasarian, an infectious disease epidemiologist.

Joshua Petrie, an assistant research professor at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, agreed.

"It's possible," he said, that the worst of the delta wave of the virus is behind us in Michigan, but it's also possible that this is just a lull before colder weather drives people indoors and the coming holidays spur travel and large gatherings, which could ramp up the spread of the virus yet again.

"I think it still warrants a little bit more wait and see. ... When you're at high case levels, even if you are declining, you're always at risk for a rebound. We could continue declining or begin to bounce back up. It's a little bit hard to predict."

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