GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — New York City has become the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Michigan does not have nearly as many COVID-19 related illnesses as New York does, Michigan still ranks highly among the states with the most COVID-19 cases.

Why?

13 ON YOUR SIDE spoke to the Department Chair of Public Health at Grand Valley State University, Dr. Ranelle Brew about why there are so many cases of COVID-19 in Michigan.

“We are ranking so high in Michigan because people just aren’t listening to recommendations," says Dr. Brew. She says she's not surprised that the influx of cases in our state are found in the Detroit Metro area.

“I think there is a variety of reasons for that. It is our largest city in the state of Michigan so just by population alone, but there are also some underlying things that are happening in Detroit that maybe we have a better handle of in other parts in the state of Michigan," she says. "Its infrastructure is not as strong, its had some rough times over the last decade and I think there is public heath infrastructure there that is different than what we see in other counties in Michigan so in regard to high poverty rates and socioeconomic status type issues that we look at in public health, those are happening at a high rate in Detroit.”

Despite government recommendations to avoid non-essential travel during the coronavirus crisis, Dr. Brew says air travel in and our of the Detroit area is still happening.

“We have a huge travel hub in our state, the international airport Detroit Metro, that’s bringing people and taking people in an out of our state very regularly as they are still traveling.

Does Dr. Brew believe that Michigan responded to the virus outbreak quickly enough? Yes she does. And she credits our Governor for taking the necessary steps to flatten the curve.

"We were on the forefronts of the stay at home regulations and based off of where we rank in the nation in number of cases, I think we fell in line perfectly where we needed to be," says Dr. Brew. "We’ve learned a lot already from what’s happened in this pandemic. I personally am giving kudos to Governor Whitmer, I think how she has responded has been spot on to what we have in terms of needs and controlling this in our state.”

What's a realistic timeline for the United States to get back up an running? While optimistic, Dr. Brew doesn't think it's the best idea to think that the curve will flatten in the next few weeks.

“I think Easter is unrealistic," says Dr. Brew. "I think the fear right now for the CDC is that because its such a large holiday where we bring big groups together, that this is going to be like a breaking point potentially. If faith groups don’t do online services and keep people out of the churches, we could see that all of the work that we have done in the past couple of weeks kind of go downhill.”

According to Dr. Brew, the bottom line is that there really is no evidence base out there yet to provide the right answer to 'why' Michigan's cases are so high. She says experts don't officially know at this point in time.

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