Michigan's school COVID outbreaks climb as vaccines open up for kids

Michigan's COVID-19 outbreaks are climbing again, especially in our schools as many have stopped testing which is impacting the spread among students and staff.

Just a few short weeks ago, the state's most recent COVID-19 surge seemed to be slowing but daily cases are now around 3,000. However, because more citizens have been vaccinated, this surge is not as severe but it is clearly alive and well in schools.

There are 1.5 million school kids and only 34 of them have been hospitalized with COVID-19. However, only 42% between the ages of 12 and 15 have had the vaccine. Add to that, the vaccines have just now been opened to children between 5 and 11.

Michigan's Chief Medical Executive, Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian said all of that is leading to this stunning statement:

"In terms of outbreaks, K through 12 schools are the biggest source of outbreaks across the state," Dr. Bagdasarian said. "(At) the start of school...we saw in our 5 to 18-year-olds, we saw an uptick in cases right as schools were re-opening and that has continued to go up."

104 new school outbreaks have been reported this week, on top of the 101 last week and 76 the week before. THat's a grand total of 592 outbreaks of two or more cases in state schools.

Conservative GOP board member Tom McMillan says students are more likely to be killed in a car accident than from the virus. But Dr. Bagdasarian said the data shows otherwise.

"National data suggests that COVID-19 is in the top ten causes of death in that pediatric age group," she said.

Of course, one way to reduce the school outbreaks is with an aggressive in-school testing program. Last spring 80,000 athletes were tested each week which reduced the spread among students.

Now, many schools have stopped testing which opens the door to more outbreaks.

"It could be that schools are just feeling overwhelmed and they don't have the time or energy to report all the results or to even administer the tests," Dr. Bagdasarian said.

While some parents and student advocates want Gretchen Whitmer's administration to mandate masks and Covid testing in schools. Whitmer argues that's a local issue for local school boards to decide. The GOP legislature agrees with the governor's hands-off policy.