Michigan smashed it’s one-day new cases record Saturday. That’s an ominous sign as Michigan braces for a long winter.
MICHIGAN—”We’re about to go into a dark winter.”
That warning came from Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in the final debate against President Donald Trump Thursday. And over the weekend, Michigan showed signs that those fears are founded.
Until Saturday, Michigan’s record new coronavirus cases was a little over 2,000 cases in a given day, set earlier in October. But Saturday’s severity escalated to a new leel.
Saturday, Oct. 24, the state of Michigan reported 3,338 new confirmed coronavirus cases. Not even Mackinac Island, which was extremely lucky dodging the pandemic through the summer, was spared the weekend’s surge. The island is closing its tourism season with a rising rate of coronavirus.
Island resident Melanie Libby told Bridge it was unrealistic to hope her home would be spared.
“We knew it was out there, and when we have hundreds of thousands of visitors each summer,” she said. “I’m sure one or two of those folks had COVID, and maybe they didn’t even know it.“
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief public health official, expressed grave concerns over the weekend surge.
“It is now more important than ever that people take this seriously,” she said in a statement. “Wear a mask every time you are going to be around someone outside of your own household. Avoid large gatherings and maintain a safe distance from others. If rates continue like this, we risk overwhelming our hospitals and having many more Michiganders die.”
Overwhelming Hospitals Poses an Imminent Threat
Overwhelming Michigan’s hospitals was a major contributing factor to the high case fatality rate Michigan saw in the spring and early summer. The strategy of flattening the curve was designed to help reduce the load on hospitals and allow them to more effectively treat the sick. Overloading them will, therefore, increase the fatality rate.
Especially as the hotspots of the pandemic move. Where in the spring the largest surge in cases was in Detroit, during the fall phase of the pandemic it is rural Michigan hospitals dealing with rapidly increasing amounts of cases.
Without adhering to best practices around the virus, lives and livelihoods may be endangered. Leadership from nearly every hospital in Michigan issued a statement urging vigilance from Michiganders as coronavirus hospitalizations rise.
“This concerning jump puts our entire healthcare system at risk of another capacity crisis,” the statement reads. “If the trend continues, doctors and nurses, therapists and custodians, food services and support staff, who have barely begun to recover from the terrible stress of the initial COVID-19 surge will suffer additional stress and risk their own infection, illness, and mortality.”
Michigan has seen a small but steady increase in the total number of daily deaths alongside the massive surge of new daily confirmed cases. Khaldun’s advice faces a steep roadblock, however, in the form of pandemic fatigue.
Pandemic fatigue is the exhaustion people are feeling with the changes to daily life prompted by the novel coronavirus, which remains highly communicable, effectively untreatable and for which there is no proven vaccine. All the same, people want life as it was last year to return.
But it won’t.
Staying Vigilant Through a Dark Winter
In fact, there’s every reason to think the pandemic will get even harder to endure in the coming months. While there has been a lot of gained ground on understanding the coronavirus, the political climate has made coordinated action far more difficult, explains MLive.
The kind of swift and decisive action that halted the wildfire of the pandemic in early April can’t be repeated in November thanks to a ruling by Michigan’s Supreme Court. There are also dangerous and dubiously effective alternatives to mitigation of the disease being proposed, like attempting to organically create herd immunity.
“We’re heading into what could be the worst surge of the entire pandemic to date,” public health expert Dr. Abdul el-Sayid told The ‘Gander. “The Supreme Court has made what I think is a disastrous decision in blocking [Gov. Whitmer’s] powers and block her ability to enforce lockdown and require masks in public. We’ve got to be making good choices to protect ourselves.”
But in the coming winter, that may be harder than ever as pandemic fatigue, politicization of pandemic protections, and seasonal gloom form a perfect winter storm.
Lyndsey Volpe-Bertram is a clinical psychologist from Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids. She cautioned that combined between the normal seasonal isolation of winter, the coronavirus isolation provides a psychological stress on Michiganders that some may seek to relieve by breaching social distancing and quarantine practices. Instead, she recommended to WOODTV that Michiganders seek online interaction through things like Zoom happy hours or online courses.
“We want people to be especially proactive this year rather than reactive,” Volpe-Bertram said. “There’s so much we can do about planning and things we can do ahead of this that we didn’t have when the pandemic started. So rather than be thrust into this position of ‘we can’t do anything, oh my God this is terrible,’ it’s really about planning ahead right now to think about how I’m going to survive the best way I can once the colder weather starts to kick in.”
Planning ahead about how to adapt traditions for the winter holidays for families, particularly those with young children, could make all the difference she said.