Whitmer, doctors urge vaccine hesitant to reach out to family doctor for info

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LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, on Wednesday praised Michigan’s progress in getting COVID-19 vaccines but also urged people to keep wearing masks as described state and federal guidance while coronavirus remains a threat.

Michigan has reached its first vaccination benchmark tied to the loosening of state restrictions. More than 55% of people age 16 and up have received at least one dose, which means that as of May 24, all sectors may return to in-person work. Whitmer added that more than 70% of seniors are vaccinated.

“Vaccines are our best chance of putting this pandemic behind us and returning to normal,” Whitmer said at a coronavirus briefing in Lansing. “They represent hope and healing. And if you want to learn more, I advise you to talk to your doctor.”

Khaldun asked every primary care doctor in the state to sign up to become a vaccine provider. She said that will allow them to administer doses to patients who want to get it in a trusted setting with someone they know.

“Reach out to your patients now and ask them if they have been vaccinated and if they have any questions that you can answer about the vaccines,” Khaldun urged doctors. “Primary care providers can also work with your local health department if you would like to keep smaller quantities of the vaccine on hand. Know that if you become a vaccine provider, you can also focus on just vaccinating the patients who you already know, who are already in your practice.”

She added that for those who don’t have primary care doctors, the state is still backing programs that bring vaccines into communities, like mobile clinics and reaching the homebound.

Khaldun also called on parents to get their children as young as 12 vaccinated against the virus as soon as that demographic has access to shots. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said earlier this week that it’s OK for kids age 12 to 15 to get the vaccine, the state is still waiting on some final guidance from federal health officials. That should come very soon and the youth vaccinations are expected to start within days.

Doctors say that even though kids often don’t get as sick from the virus as older adults, vaccinating them will help boost herd immunity, slow the spread of the virus and prevent the emergence of new variants. It can also help prevent kids who do contract the virus from developing the rare but dangerous complication MIS-C, which 115 kids in Michigan have gotten so far.

Dr. Srikar Reddy, the president-elect of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians and a family doctor in South Lyon, said at the governor’s press conference that he will be getting his 13-year-old son vaccinated as soon as possible even though the teen has already had the virus.

“My wife, who is also a physician, and I both trust in scientific trials that have proven that COVID vaccines are safe and effective not only for adults, but also for our children,” he said.

He urged people who are nervous about getting the vaccine to talk to their family doctor, who can give them the facts.

“It’s important for everyone, including those who have suffered through the illness, to get vaccinated to help protect our fellow citizens who are at high risk of contracting COVID or who have an underlying condition that, were they to get the virus, could be severely ill or even die,” Reddy said. “I believe that getting vaccinated is our civic duty.”

ABOUT 2,200 NEW CASES REPORTED

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday announced 2,171 more confirmed cases of the virus and 17 additional related deaths. In all, Michigan has recorded 869,512 confirmed cases since the virus was first detected here 14 months ago and 18,355 related deaths.

On Tuesday, labs tested 28,990 samples for the virus and 2,308 were positive, a rate of 7.96%. The number of positive tests is not the same as the number of new cases because people may be tested more than once. Additionally, testing numbers are from a single calendar date, while the number of new cases lists the increase since the last time the state compiled the data; these two time frames do not match up precisely.

Kent County reported 181 more cases for a total of 66,296. The number of deaths was revised down by six to 738. This has not been uncommon as cases are double-checked and sometimes moved between jurisdictions.

A few West Michigan counties did see additional deaths:

  • Allegan County: One more death for 115 total; 9,658 total confirmed cases since March 2020.
  • Calhoun County: One more death for 266 total; 11,919 total cases.
  • Kalamazoo County: One more death for 337 total; 19,628 total cases.
  • Muskegon County: Three more deaths for 336; 14,868 total cases.

Wayne County, hit hardest by the virus, reported four more deaths for a total of 4,537 and 373 more cases for a total of 148,592. Neighboring Oakland County has had 99,462 cases (203 more than the previous day) and 2,139 deaths (no change). Macomb County has had 89,883 cases (195 more) and 2,205 deaths (two more).

MICHIGAN STILL HAS HIGHEST CASE RATE IN US

Michigan continues to see key virus metrics improve. The average test positivity rate last week decreased by 14% from the previous week and, after a month of declines, is now around 10%. Case rates are 53% lower than they were at the peak of the most recent surge. The hospital inpatient census has dropped more than 30% since the April 19 peak.

Still, the numbers are high. Michigan is reporting the second-highest numbers of cases and has the highest case rate of any state in the nation. Hospital inpatient bed utilization and ICU bed utilization are also the highest of any state. People age 10 to 19 are still catching the virus at the highest rates, with those age 20-39 following.

The rate of daily deaths, a lagging metric, is finally beginning to decrease again after two straight months of gains, having dropped 14% last week over the previous week. Still, Michigan has the fifth highest number of new deaths and highest death rate in the nation.

And outbreaks are continuing — the number of active outbreaks increased 4% last week over the previous week. K-12 schools are seeing more outbreaks than any other type of environment. Marshall Public Schools had to go virtual this week because so many of its bus drivers were out for coronavirus-related reasons.

Khaldun said she was “pleased with the progress” Michigan was making in pushing back the virus, though she warned it is still “very present” across the state.

“We are making great progress. Vaccines are widely available and our numbers for COVID-19 are trending down,” Khaldun said. “We are in a new phase of fighting this virus but this is certainly not over.”

She reminded people to keep wearing a mask in public, get tested if they have symptoms or have have been exposed and are unvaccinated, and to get vaccinated as soon as they can.

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