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COVID Cases, Outbreaks In Schools Continue Upward Climb

March 23, 2021

New COVID outbreaks tied to schools continued to rise in March, the same month nearly all school districts were supposed to begin offering in-person learning if they hadn’t already.

The number of new school outbreaks increased for the fourth week in a row, to 58, according to state data updated Monday. That number had been 48 the week prior and was at 29 for the week of March 1 and then 20 for the week of Feb. 22.

The number of COVID-19 cases tied to those new outbreaks is up, too. This week, it was 268. Last week, it was 226. The week of March 1 saw 146, and the week of Feb. 22 saw 81 cases.

According to data current as of March 11, K-12 school outbreaks are the leading category of new outbreaks– the 54 K-12 outbreaks associated with that week was more than the 23 tied to manufacturing and construction and the 13 tied to long-term care facilities like nursing homes.

Another large category of outbreaks was childcare and youth programs, with 22 listed outbreaks the week of March 11, while colleges and universities had four new outbreaks that week.

While not mandated, Whitmer made March 1 a goal for all districts to provide some in-person learning. Just days before that date, the governor said at least 97% of districts were on track to do that.

Yet, just because there’s been in-person learning going on, it doesn’t mean that’s the reason for the increasing case numbers, said Peter Spadafore, deputy executive director of external relations at the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators.

“Based on the data available, in-person learning in schools has not been associated with substantial community transmission, nor predating spikes in community spread,” he said. “What we do see is case numbers go up in the state and those trends reflected in school data.”

Case rates across the state have been creeping up during that time period – on Feb. 22, the seven-day daily average was 89 cases per million people. The latest numbers at MI Safe Start Map are at 127 cases per million people.

Doug Pratt, spokesperson for the Michigan Education Association, said that as in-person learning has increased, “that’s going to happen.” At the same time, he said that has more to do with what’s going on in the community than what’s going on inside a school building.

In Tuesday’s COVID number report, another 2,048 cases were added along with 27 deaths, for cumulative totals of 612,628 cases and 15,810 deaths.

As of today, 24% of those 16 and older has had at least one vaccination shot. That’s 2 million people. There have been 3.7 million vaccines distributed and 3.1 million vaccines administered.

Michigan is tied with Ohio in fourth place for the most people with at least one shot in arm in the Great Lakes region at 21% of the entire population, compared to the leading state of Minnesota at 24% followed by Wisconsin at 23%, Illinois at 22% and Indiana at 20% of first doses, according to The New York Times vaccine tracker.

On the fully-vaccinated scale, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana are tied for first place with almost 13% of the population each in that category. Michigan, Ohio and Illinois round out the field with about 12% totally inoculated.

The News York Times reports the national numbers at 71 million with one shot and 38 million with two.

Each day an average of 2.43 million shots are administered nationwide and while that number is expected to increase, at the current rate, the country would reach 50% with two shots by May 15 and 70% by June 26th. The forecast is to hit 90% by August 7th.

And in other vaccine news, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the first of several planned COVID-19 veteran vaccination clinics around Michigan, starting with Marquette on March 22.

The vaccination clinics are a partnership between the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and the Michigan National Guard. Veterans, their spouses and caregivers can be vaccinated provided they’re 50 or older.

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