Michigan turns into new COVID-19 epicenter

Lansing, Michigan — Michigan has become the newest coronavirus epicenter in the United States but it’s a mystery why. 

“I don’t know what’s going on here. Michigan is just one of the hardest hit,” said Scott Niswonger.

Dr. Meredith Hill, the emergency room director at Sparrow Hospital, said the increase has been more drastic than the previous two weeks. “I think there’s obviously more community spread right now,” she said.  

Niswonger, a COVID-19 patient, said his son may have gotten infected at his daycare center. He’s been at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital since Friday. 

“We all went and got tested and all came back positive and it’s been a downhill spiral since then,” Niswonger said. “It just feels like somebody, a 500-pound guy just sitting on my chest and I just couldn’t push him off.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the latest spike in COVID-19 cases nationwide is driven by younger Americans. One theory: A possible link to school reopenings and after-school sports. 

“We are learning that many outbreaks in young people are related to youth sports and extracurricular activities. According to CDC guidance, these activities should be limited,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC. 

There’s also been a spike in the B.1.1.7 variant that originated in the U.K. and now is believed responsible for a third of all cases in the U.S. 

“We know that B.1.1.7 is more transmissible, somewhere between 50-100% more transmissible. Whether it’s more transmissible specifically in different age demographics we don’t yet,” Walensky said. 

But there’s also good news nationwide. Four million vaccinations were reported Saturday. At least 23% of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated and 40% have received at least one dose, according to the CDC. 

As of Monday in Michigan, anyone 16 or older can get vaccinated, joining 27 other states in expanding eligibility. 

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“You get so excited because a vaccine is out and it’s a little disheartening to see the spread outpacing the vaccine,” Hill said. “We’re just trying to hold each other up and stay as positive as best we can.” 

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the attribution of a quote about the increase in COVID cases in Michigan to Scott Niswonger, a COVID-19 patient.

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