Covid Surge in Michigan Alarms Health Experts

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The country is a study in contrasts. New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and other states in the Northeast continue to report high levels of cases, and troubling upticks have emerged in Illinois, Minnesota and some other Midwestern states. But in much of the South and West, case numbers remain relatively low.

California is reporting continued declines, with about 2,600 cases a day, compared with more than 40,000 daily during much of January. Arizona is averaging about 570 cases a day, down from more than 10,000. And in Arkansas, fewer than 200 cases are being announced most days, down 40 percent in the last two weeks.

But if any place offers a glimpse at the threat of a new surge, it is Michigan.

Health officials partly attributed the rapid rise in cases to the B.1.1.7 variant that was originally identified in Britain and is widespread in Michigan. But they have also observed a broader return to prepandemic life seen in a relaxing of mask wearing, social distancing and other strategies meant to slow the spread of the virus — many weeks before a substantial portion of the population is vaccinated. On Thursday, Michigan officials announced that they had identified their first case of the P.1 variant, which has spread widely in Brazil and has now been found in more than 20 U.S. states.

More than 2,300 coronavirus patients statewide are hospitalized, a figure that has more than doubled since the beginning of March. Five hospitals in the Henry Ford system in the Detroit area had a total of 75 coronavirus patients during the week of March 8; as of Tuesday, the hospitals were up to 267 patients. On Monday, the health system announced it would reinstate a policy limiting visitors at several hospitals, in response to the latest surge.

Dr. Adnan Munkarah, chief clinical officer for the Henry Ford Health System, said more coronavirus patients are surviving the disease now than in 2020, in part because they are skewing younger.

But he is frustrated, he said, and his staff is exhausted. “We were hoping that by now, we would have things under better control,” he said.