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Health

Michigan Now Has 33 Counties With Substantial Or High Transmission, Up From Just 6 Last Week

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CDC
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On the CDC's map, the state is becoming increasingly red and orange, signaling a rapid increase in transmission rates from just a few days ago.

Millions of Michiganders live in counties that now have “substantial” or “high” rates of COVID transmission. That’s the threshold where, as of last week, the CDC is encouraging even fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors.

Thirty-three counties are now in those higher-risk categories, up from just six counties last week (according to state data released Wednesday.) On the CDC’s map, the state is rapidly turning from blue and yellow (representing “low” and “moderate” transmission) to orange and red (meaning “substantial” and “high” rates.)

So far this summer, Michigan has been spared the delta variant-driven surges seen in states like Missouri and Arkansas. But cases have been creeping up, said Dr. Joel Fishbain, Medical Director for Infection Prevention at Beaumont Hospital.

“It could be another disaster for Michigan, if we continue to rise in our cases and this continues to increase,” he said Monday. In fact, he said new evidence indicating even fully vaccinated people may be able to transmit the virus, means everyone should "return to universal masking" indoors, regardless of whether they live in an area with a lot of transmission or not.

Last week, a CDC study looked at an outbreak in one Massachusetts county that was linked to summer events and public gatherings. Of 469 cases total, 74% of those were in fully vaccinated people. About 80% of those with breakthrough infections experienced some symptoms (the most common being “cough, headache, sore throat, myalgia, and fever”) but only four were hospitalized, two of whom had underlying conditions. No one died.

Also a big deal: swab samples showed similar levels of viral genetic material in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. That “might provide a crude correlation” to how much of the virus people were carrying, the researchers said, and could mean “the viral load of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 is also similar.”

“One thing I have to say, though, is that that does not prove that all of those particles are actually live virus,” Fishbain said. “So there is still more to do. And even in some of their disclaimers, they did talk about the fact that they don't know what the microbiological implication is of that. But it is concerning.”

The point, he said, is that if vaccinated people can, in fact, transmit the virus, then this will give COVID more time to spread, evolve, and potentially become vaccine resistant.

“The delta variant and the other variants came from continued replication of the virus and infection in the community,” Fishbain said. “Variants and mutations are bound to occur. I'm concerned that the next variant might escape previous immunity and might escape vaccination. That's why we have to vaccinate everybody as quickly as we can, to try to prevent any transmission.

“And I think individuals should probably consider going back to universal masking, when they're going to stores or when they're gathering in large groups indoors. If it helps prevent spread, then it helps prevents replication of the virus...and that’s why we need to get on top of this right now.”

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