Despite only representing about 1% of the American population, the state of Michigan now accounts for one in 10 new Covid-19 cases in the United States, leading the country in hospitalizations amid a new winter surge that experts predict will only be exacerbated by the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Cases across the US have risen by 18% in the past week, but some states have seen much more dramatic increases. In Michigan, new cases have gone up by 67% and new hospitalizations by 46% in the past two weeks. A week or so ago, cases in the state were fairly steady, at about 5,000. Then they shot up to about 8,000 in just a few days. In response to the rising cases, Michigan last Friday recommended that all residents above the age of 2 wear a face mask indoors, as well as urging the early use of monoclonal antibodies among those who test positive and vaccinations for all who are eligible.
The University of Michigan is also seeing a major outbreak of influenza, with 760 cases reported since the beginning of October. The flu and other respiratory illnesses can put a strain on hospitals in normal times; layering Covid on top of a bad flu year could be catastrophic, health experts warn.
U.S. COVID-19 metrics for November 24, 2021.
Michigan had both the highest cases and hospitalizations per 100k, 54% fully vaxxed.
Montana had highest deaths per 100k, 52% fully vaxxed.
Source: The New York Times pic.twitter.com/etVjEtvOEU
— lulubird (@lulubir67298641) November 25, 2021
What’s happening in Michigan is a sign of what’s likely to come in other parts of the US, particularly in states with low vaccination rates. Some northern states have seen big increases recently as people headed indoors in cooler weather. But as winter and holidays approach, other states could see dramatic surges like these as well as the virus continues to mutate and spread amongst unvaccinated populations, which eventually spread to vaccinated communities as well. People who are vaccinated against the coronavirus can expect milder symptoms, but can still spread COVID to others who may be vulnerable.
BREAKING—“Omicron Variant”—The World Health Organization designates the new #B11529 strain a "variant of concern" high priority risks rating and gives it the Greek name #Omicron. pic.twitter.com/FMv9WySEEd
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) November 26, 2021
Meanwhile, America faces a new threat from yet another mutation of the virus first discovered in South Africa. On Friday, the White House announced it was restricting travel both to and from South Africa and other African nations due to the discovery of the new and deadly mutation, the Omicron Variant, that has shown to be even more aggressive and contagious than the deadly Delta Variant. President Joe Biden US has restricted travel to and from Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi starting Monday, administration officials told CNN.
— Karine Jean-Pierre (@KJP46) November 26, 2021
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the Omicron variant was present in all South Africans provinces.
The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution met today to review what is known about the #COVID19 variant B.1.1.529.
They advised WHO that it should be designated a Variant of Concern.
WHO has named it Omicron, in line with naming protocols https://t.co/bSbVas9yds pic.twitter.com/Gev1zIt1Ek
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) November 26, 2021
The United Kingdom, Japan, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Jordan are also among those imposing restrictions on flights and travelers from southern African nations in light of the new variant.