Michigan Covid cases are No. 2 in nation; officials concerned with new variant

Michigan's COVID-19 totals are nearly leading the nation. Only Minnesota has a higher seven day case rate. Hospitals are reaching their limit.

"The last one to two weeks have been particularly bad," said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state's chief medical executive.

Michigan’s number of hospitalized adults with confirmed COVID-19 cases has reached a new pandemic high.

"We’re already experiencing a surge in cases," she said. "We are already experiencing hospitals that are under strain. Hospitals that are feeling the burden of these cases and not only covid but other respiratory viruses circulating like influenza."

As Michigan deals with an increased number of hospitalized adults with Covid, a new coronavirus variant - omicron - has been identified in South Africa and several other countries.

"Hospitals are under strain and now with a potentially more transmissible variant," said Bagdasarian. "It puts us in a very vulnerable position."

As of now, the United States has no confirmed cases of this new variant, but state and federal officials are closely monitoring the situation.

"We have not identified any cases of the omicron variant. That doesn’t mean that the variant is not circulating in the United States, or circulating in nearby states, it just means we have not picked it up on our sequencing," said Bagdasarian.

State officials are also monitoring the impact of the new variant.

"We know the cases in South Africa were predominantly in healthy or younger individuals with milder symptoms," she said.

But the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says it’s prepared to combat any variant.

"We know that our best defense against any variant, is vaccination," she said.

Elbert Moore says he is fully vaccinated and decided to get his Covid booster shot also. And for now, he is not afraid of the new variant - and is encouraging others to get vaccinated and boosted also.

"Real simple, it doesn’t cost you anything, it will keep you from dying," he said.

Medical professionals admit they are still learning more about the omicron variant but believe the vaccines currently available should provide some protection against the new variant.

"In all likelihood, there will be some level of protection - but studies are underway. So we will know that it protects against the variants that are circulating right now," said Dr. Bagdasarian.