Michigan's coronavirus cases tick back up as daily COVID-19 counts hit June high

Harper's Bar and Grill was only open for two weeks before it was forced to close its doors again after county health officials traced at least 25 cases of COVID-19 to the restaurant.

The Ingham County health officer called the bar's outbreak a "higher risk exposure than a typical visit to a restaurant or bar" and warned that more people likely contracted the virus who hasn't been identified yet.

The local outbreak underscores the ease by which coronavirus can spread and if state COVID-19 case counts are indicating anything, that spread could be starting to pick up again.

On Wednesday, Michigan reported 323 more cases of COVID-19. That's the largest daily total in June. After the state's case counts bottomed out at 74 cases on June 15, daily case counts have oscillated back up.

However, peaks and valleys don't tell the whole story. Using seven-day averages offers a more comprehensive perspective:

  • An average of 177 cases a day were reported between June 4-10
  • An average of 159 cases a day were reported between June 11-17
  • An average of 222 cases a day were reported between June 18-24

May and June were busy months for statewide restriction changes. A wave of lifted rules started June 1 when Michigan's stay home order was lifted. Small gatherings of people were permitted and restaurants and bars could operate at 50% capacity a week later. Another week after that, hair, massage, and nail services were allowed to reopen.

As opposed to industries like construction and manufacturing, which still allow for social distancing rules that limit exposure to COVID-19, service sectors will have a harder time limiting transmission. In the case of Harper's, long lines with limited social distancing and mask-wearing were reported outside the restaurant.

In addition to business reopenings, mass protests taking place in Michigan cities from Detroit to Lansing sparked concerns of increased exposure between crowds of people. Even though demonstrations took place outside, congregations reaching into the thousands were counted on several days in Detroit.

While it took a few weeks after the stay home order was lifted, residents have also returned to their average mobility reported before the pandemic outbreak arrived in Michigan. Scoring an F grade in a majority of its counties by the social distancing tracker Unacast, which notes increases in visits to non-essential businesses and encounter densities - although those last two still remain below pre-pandemic norms.

Whitmer told FOX 2 this week she will probably have to delay further reopening the state until next week or after the 4th of July. Cited as the holiday benchmark for entering Phase 5 of the states reopening plan, she said the outbreak in East Lansing prompted her to second-guess the safest decision.

"Right now, the numbers in most parts of the state have continued to look strong. There are a few blips that we are keeping our eye very close on. My hope was to move the rest of the state into phase 5 by the 4th of July - my hope was to do it this week. We're not going to do it this week," Whitmer told FOX 2 on Tuesday. "We're not in a position to do that yet, we've got to get more data."

This week alone lays out the minefield residents in Michigan and the rest of the country face as it starts to re-engage all norms of life. Even more worrisome is the expected returns of college students to campus in August and September, as well as future election days in August and November. Experts don't believe the country has entered the dreaded second surge - but rather is still embroiled in its first wave of infections.

The record number of new cases and climbing hospitalizations reported in states like Texas, Arizona, and Florida are thought to be an extension of that first wave.

It's worth noting that deaths linked to the virus are still extremely low in Michigan. The number of deaths reported per day has floated in the single digits over the last two weeks.