Coronavirus numbers continue falling, state keeping close eye on expanding mutation

As Michigan grows increasingly encouraged by coronavirus numbers, health officials are keeping a watchful eye on the expansion of a COVID-19 mutation that's been detected in 157 people.

So far, B.1.1.7 has been confirmed across 12 counties and is among the most prevalent in states in the U.S. The number of UK variant cases more than doubled after an outbreak at a prison in Ionia County this week.

However, test positivity, hospital capacity dedicated to coronavirus patients, and cases per million have fallen by as much as 85% of the November peak.

"(these are) very encouraging trends that have us moving in the right direction," Khaldun said during a Wednesday press conference.

Additionally, 14% of Michigan residents have received the first dose of the vaccine while more than 500,000 are fully vaccinated. That includes 35% of people over the age of 75.

Not everyone is pleased with the allocation of vaccine doses, however. Most notably, county leaders in Wayne and Macomb have said they're puzzled over the percentage of vaccines being administered in their jurisdictions, arguing they are lower than in other parts of the state. 

Khaldun said the disparity is due to the number of eligible candidates to receive a vaccine in some parts of the state are higher than in other parts. Whitmer reiterated that the issue of availability is a problem in every state.

Layered over the virus dynamics are political ones. Schools waiting to reopen have been urged by the governor to offer some form of in-person learning by the beginning of March. Recent surveys show a large majority of districts already offer the option.

RELATED: Health officials tracking explosion of B.1.1.7 coronavirus cases in Michigan prison

However, already-approved funding to the tune of $1.6 billion from Congress that was intended for Michigan schools has been tied up in the legislature as it debates with Whitmer about her pandemic powers. 

As both groups work toward a budget agreement for the next fiscal year, the legislature has declined to appropriate the extra funding until Whitmer relinquishes her authority to open and close in-person learning. 

On Tuesday, county superintendents chastised lawmakers for using students as a bargaining chip. 

Whitmer pressed the legislature on Wednesday to come to the table to negotiate their differences on the state's budget. She said her state budget director has met with several lawmakers in the legislature and she has spoken some a few times as well.