Michigan COVID-19 cases tick back up as experts wary of state's pandemic progress

Michigan's coronavirus lull may be nice now, but experts warn the state's lax precautions and falling urgency may be a bad omen of things to come. 

According to Beaumont's infectious disease research director, the pandemic continues to trudge on even if it doesn't feel like it did during earlier outbreaks of the virus.  

"As much as people want it to be done, it’s not - there’s more cases. I saw cases today at the hospital - new ones," said Dr. Matthew Sims. "I know that mask mandates have gone away etc etc - I don’t think that's the right idea to be honest." 

"When things are getting better, that’s not the time to take all the protections away," he said.

Very few of the health restrictions that guided life in 2020 and 2021 are no longer being deployed. While vaccine rates and boosters have helped blunt the pandemic's impact in the U.S. recently, the low number of cases doesn't necessarily mean that Americans are safe from further infection.

Some countries like New Zealand are only just now coming back from a surge in cases that slammed the island nation over the winter. In China, another lockdown has been put in place. 

"It’s been very difficult to understand exactly what’s going on in China from the very beginning of this - China is a country that you don’t get a lot of great information out of," Sims said. "There was a lot of debate early on about how bad was the pandemic there. You know, what they were saying versus what we were seeing."

But while some countries practice total shutdowns of cities, others have long since said goodbyes to any form of pandemic-related restriction., instead relying on a combination of immunity from vaccines and post-infection antibodies. 

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Recently, the FDA authorized a second booster shot for people over the age of 50 and those who are immunocompromised. This, Sims says, may help a little, but it could also offer a false sense of security.

"The problem is with boosting, as you get further and further away from the virus strain that the vaccine was made against, boosting only gets you so far, you get diminishing returns," he said.

And then others, like in Philadelphia, a mask mandate is going back into effect in preparation for more cases that were already rising prior to the order. 

Previous forecasting of what a surge under the latest omicron variant strain would look like hasn't troubled officials too much.  

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"I do think it’s possible we’re going to have an increased number of cases," said Dr. Dennis Cunningham, the medical director of Infection Control and Prevention with the Henry Ford Health System in late March. "I do not expect this to be like any of the other surges we’ve been through."

The latest figures out of Michigan regarding COVID-19 reports a jump in infections by 36% on Wednesday. Cases rose from 697 daily cases to 950. The biggest increase was reported in Washtenaw County. Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland all saw upticks as well. 

"It’s low right now, that didn’t mean it’s gonna stay low, it was low before," Sims said.