Michigan coronavirus cases, positivity rate starting to decline across state

After more than two months of gradual then exponential increases in new coronavirus cases, Michigan is starting to see a decline in newly reported infections.

Tests coming back positive have fallen 5% while the number of new cases reported during seven-day averages has dropped from about 7,000 cases in early April to 5,700 cases this week.

Michigan has been stymied with a third surge that arrived sooner than expected while the rest of the country watched, unsure if it would be a harbinger for things to come or a one-off. 

Importantly, cases are falling in some of the state's most populous counties. Washtenaw, Oakland, Kalamazoo, Macomb, Livingston, and Ingham counties are all reporting large drops in cases. That's especially good news in Macomb, which has reported the highest number of deaths in the state. 

Also promising is the plateau in new hospitalizations, something that Henry Ford Health Systems CEO said would start to emerge as awareness of Michigan's rampant infections became more well-known. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said earlier this week that the "numbers are far too high," but they appeared to be slowing and death rates are lower than in the last two waves. She has not tightened COVID-19 restrictions but has asked for a voluntary two-week pause on in-person high school instruction, indoor restaurant dining and youth sports to help curb the outbreak.

Deaths, which are a lagging indicator that usually follows an increase in infections haven't reached the previous surge's peaks, a result of the makeup of groups that are in the hospital with COVID-19. Younger people have a better chance of fighting off the disease.

The surge has led some school districts to return to remote classes for older students. Others, such as Ann Arbor, have delayed a return from a 13-month closure for fourth graders and above. Lansing's district on Wednesday said all classes will remain online through the end of the academic year. Kids there have been virtual since March 2020.

RELATED: COVID-19 in Michigan is a 'runaway train' with restrictions - so why isn't Florida and Texas?

It's not entirely clear what finally helped Michigan reach its apogee for new cases. Scientists are still working through why the exponential increase in cases happened in the first place. A convergence of factors from kids going back to schools to the presence of new variants is part of the reason. Yesterday, experts confirmed that the state had the highest number of B.1.1.7 infections in the country.

But where there's good news, there is also not-so-good news - Michigan's rate of vaccinations is falling. The state came close to hitting its goal of administering 100,000 shots daily. But since April 11, the number of new vaccines given out has fallen by more than 15,000.

Vaccines are why elderly people weren't filling up hospital beds in March and April. The state and cities will likely need to target more equitable distribution of vaccines while also curbing hesitancy to keep pace with meeting its goal of protecting 70% of the state's adults by the end of the year.

In Michigan, more than 18,100 people have died with confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases. Nearly 900,000 confirmed or probable infections have been reported. 

This Associated Press contributed to this report.