(Reuters) – Michigan vaulted to the top of the list of U.S. states in terms of new COVID-19 cases reported last week, after a steep rise in infections that has come about a month after it eased restrictions designed to control the spread of the virus.
The state reported 11,082 cases on Monday – a two-day tally that included Sunday. That compares with a previous single-day peak of 10,140 new cases on Nov. 20.
For the week to April 5, Michigan ranked as the No. 1 state for new cases and hospitalizations per 100,000 people. It is the only state to report more than 7,000 new cases on Monday. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR)
Michigan’s rise may reflect the state’s relatively strict approach to controlling the virus compared with other states, particularly in the U.S. South, experts said on Tuesday. When Michigan lifted its restrictions, a greater percentage of its residents – particularly younger people – had been barred from activities and ordered to wear masks and therefore were more vulnerable to the virus.
“It goes back to that we have more susceptible people now and that’s why we’re seeing the surge,” said Joshua Petrie, research assistant professor at University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.
“It still might have been the right call because now we have a good proportion of our older population vaccinated and we’re not seeing as many cases in that group,” Petrie said.
Of Michiganders age 75 and older, 68 percent have had at least one shot and 56 percent are completely vaccinated, Petrie said.
As with many other states, Michigan began loosening restrictions in March, allowing gyms, restaurants, pubs, retail stores and entertainment venues to use a greater percentage of their capacity.
Around the time when restrictions were eased in March, the state reported about 1,800 new infections a day. In the seven days to April 5, the average has surged to over 6,700 cases a day.
Nationwide, new virus infections were up for a third week in a row and hospitalizations also broke an 11-week streak of falling admissions.
Twenty-seven out of 50 U.S. states have reported increases in new cases in the past week compared with the previous seven days.
Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden urged states to pause reopening efforts with the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warning of “impending doom” if precautions are not taken seriously.
Vaccinations in the country hit a record for the sixth straight week and currently over 32% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose and more than 19% were fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Many U.S. states, including Michigan, have already opened vaccinations for everyone above the age of 16.
(Reporting by Roshan Abraham and Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Aurora Ellis and Lisa Shumaker)