LANSING, Mich. — Michigan appears to be turning a corner when it comes to coronavirus.
The rate of new COVID-19 cases in Michigan is slowing down, the daily death count is dropping and the number of hospitalizations has decreased.
"These are great signs," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive. "Social distancing is working. People are recovering and there is hope."
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 576 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, which is the lowest daily case count since March 26. The daily number of deaths dropped to 77, the third day in a row where the death count was below 100.
"Statewide the number of patients who are in the hospital with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 has declined from a high point about 10 days ago," said Whitmer. "In fact, we've seen a 15% reduction in the last 10 days."
To date, more than 3,200 people in the state have recovered from COVID-19.
The virus is plateauing in Michigan.
But even with Khaldun and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expressing "cautious optimism" about the state of the virus, they are warning Michiganders that emerging out of the stringent stay at home order will need to be done slowly and in phases.
"We've got to do everything we can to avoid a second peak," Whitmer said. "Because while we have seen some improvements and reasons for cautious optimism. We've also seen that some parts of the state have had an increased growth in cases."
The governor said it would be devastating to reopen the state only to have to shut it down again if a second wave of the virus were to crop up.
"We've got to avoid that at all costs and that's what's driving the decisions that we're making," Whitmer said.
Southeast Michigan was hit particularly hard by the virus, but they are starting to see a reprieve in the spread of the virus. However, Khaldun said health officials are keeping a close eye on what is happening across the state.
"There are some counties where we are starting to see a rising trend in the number of cases. And this includes rural areas of the state that actually may not have as much hospital capacities as we see in Southeast Michigan," Khaldun said.
She warned that relaxing the social distancing measures too soon could lead to another peak, which might be higher than this first wave of the virus.
The current stay at home order is set to expire on May 1, and the governor has said she hopes to start relaxing some restrictions by then. Health officials will be tracking how the virus develops over the next 10 days to inform their decision making.
"We won't just resume life like it was pre-COVID-19," Whitmer said. "It will take phases and it's going to be slow."
Since extending the latest stay at home order, which enacted new restrictions, the governor has been at odds with the Republican-led legislature. Monday, House Republicans issued their road map for reopening the state, which included a regional approach.
"We are all concerned about our health and safety during this crisis, and any plan put forward has to make that the top priority. But there are thousands of families across the state who also have to worry about how to pay their bills, take care of their children and keep up with payments on their homes on top of everything else," said House Speaker Lee Chatfield.
The plan calls for the governor to first reopen parts of the state that have not seen high case numbers of COVID-19 then gradually move to the area most impacted. As of this weekend, there are cases of the virus in every county in the Lower Peninsula, but some rural counties are still only seeing a handful of cases.
"I want to be clear, living in a rural part of Michigan does not mean that you are safe from the virus. Just because it's not showing up in your community yet, doesn't mean that it's not already there," Whitmer said.
The governor has said she plans to unveil the state's plan for reopening sometime this week.
Even with the improvements that Michigan is seeing, state officials are still hammering home the same message: stay home.
Watch the full briefing here:
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