The ‘Gander is tracking the daily status of the coronavirus in Michigan. Here’s what Jan. 21 looks like.
LANSING, Mich.—Michigan’s daily COVID-19 numbers are more than just data. They give us the big picture of families impacted, a historic moment in Michigan science and healthcare, and a look at how we are ending the pandemic.
The ‘Gander is here to get you the updated numbers and what they really mean moving forward.
What The Data Means
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has for some months tracked the daily confirmed cases and deaths resulting from the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Those numbers represent people, like Khodr Farhat whose entire family was diagnosed in late November.
“The first week, the week of Thanksgiving … was very painful,” he told The ‘Gander “Very bad body aches, very bad headache that, even if you take Tylenol it didn’t go away to be honest with you. You feel like your calves, your thighs, your lower back area, were aching. Not like a regular ache. You’re honestly a bit slowed down, you’re out of energy, you can’t smell, you can’t taste.”
In midsummer of 2020, the department began weekly tracking of those recovered from the virus. Under Michigan’s definition, “recovered” merely means having survived for 30 days following the onset of symptoms. For many Michiganders, that category is a bit misleading, as it takes some Michiganders months to return to normal levels of activity and some wonder if they will at all. Coronavirus, even in recovery, can leave long-term damage to the body.
“You almost die, and then you get to a point where you’re like ‘I’m supposed to be passed it so why are my lungs burning every day?’” Coronavirus survivor Dened Harris told The ‘Gander. “You think, are you still gonna die? Nobody can tell you anything. The doctors say ‘I don’t know.’ They didn’t know. They still don’t know.”
But as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines began to roll out, the state began tracking a new number, displayed on a different web interface from the others. This was the number of vaccines administered. Like recoveries, this data is rarely up-to-date, often updated sporadically and usually several days behind, but began being incorporated immediately into the daily coronavirus data published by The ‘Gander.
“We all needed to get this good news,” said Kalamazoo-area public health specialist Dr. Matt Longjohn. “It’s the first real sign that gives me confidence we’ll be in a better situation a year from now.”
The Goal for Vaccinations
Vaccinations administered is a tricky number to make sense of. Every Michigander will need at least two doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Moreover, while nearly perfectly effective, the coronavirus vaccines do prove ineffective a small proportion of the time. And as seen in Wisconsin, improperly stored vaccines, while not dangerous, are entirely ineffective.
“In any scenario, we must build up our community health system while deploying the vaccine,” Longjohn told The ‘Gander. “We need to get money to states, counties, cities, health systems, [Federally Qualified Health Centers], and any other organizations that can help provide for the workforce, infrastructure, and coordination we will need. Unfortunately, we have to expect this will not be the last community health crisis we will face.”
To reach the goalpost for herd immunity, the point at which enough Michiganders are immune from the coronavirus that it can effectively be contained by the vaccination program, requires 70% of Michiganders fully vaccinated. That means out of every ten Michiganders, 7 must receive two successful vaccinations to effectively end the pandemic.
That puts the above numbers in some perspective. As Michigan’s population estimate for 2021 is around 10 million, that means 7 million Michiganders need minimally two doses of the coronavirus vaccine, for a total of 14 million doses in Michigan alone. It could take most of the year to reach that number and, with it, a semblance of normality.