As COVID cases slow, Michigan health director 'cautiously optimistic'

Michigan is still considered the COVID hotspot in the nation but there are encouraging signs in this week's numbers as the state's top health director, Elizabeth Hertel, says it appears we may be on the other side of this third surge in cases.

"I would call it cautiously optimistic," Hertel said on Wednesday, as Michigan reported more than 4,300 cases, much lower than the most recent peak of 8,955.
The message from Lansing is different than a few weeks ago when the surge was washing over the state, the worst in the country in terms of cases.

"We are in a pretty optimistic space right now. We have seen our case rates declining for the last 14 days which is a really good sign. We are seeing our hospitalizations start to plateau a bit," Hertel said.

On Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer teased that the state could loosen some COVID restrictions. That was the same day the CDC changed mask recommendations for people who have been vaccinated against the virus.
"We're really looking to figure out we continue to move forward with loosening those restrictions, knowing that we have the ability to be outside more and we have so many people vaccinated in the state," 
As of Wednesday, nearly 36 of eligible residents in the state are fully vaccinated but that number has to get to 70% to start talking about herd immunity.

"We know at that point there will be so many people that have the antibodies due to the vaccine or having contracted COVID that we will really be minimizing transmission across the state," she said.

The challenge, however, is that the demand in the vaccine is dropping.

"We are seeing the demand ebb across the state as far as the larger fixed site locations - outside of Ford field, we're still seeing good turn out there," she said.

As cases slow, hospitalizations have plateaued but still very busy as we move to the backside of this surge. Hertel said the staff of our hospitals deserve commendation for their efforts.

"For them to step up again and do this for their communities and to take care of their neighbors in such a way is so valiant and so admirable so I’m just so grateful we have such strong health care providers in the state," Hertel said.