Overflow beds line the hallways in the emergency room at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital in Pontiac Monday, Jan. 24, 2022.

Wear a mask in these Michigan counties as COVID-19 surges

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that people in 16 Michigan counties wear masks again in indoor, public places as the coronavirus surges and hospitalizations climb.

The CDC updated its map Thursday evening that details community risk from COVID-19, showing all of metro Detroit now in the high-risk category as well as many in the northwestern lower peninsula.

Those counties are: Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston, St. Clair, Chippewa, Mackinac, Emmet, Cheboygan, Antrim, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Manistee and Calhoun.

In those 16 high-risk counties, the CDC recommends wearing a mask in indoor, public places, staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and getting tested if you’re symptomatic.

More:Michigan is facing ‘unique moment’ of COVID-19 history, expert says, as cases rise

Another 28 Michigan counties now have moderate levels of transmission, according to the CDC.

They are: Gogebic, Ontonagon, Marquette, Presque Isle, Alpena, Montmorency, Otsego, Alcona, Crawford, Charlevoix, Leelanau, Kent, Barry, Kalamazoo, Eaton, Clinton, Gratiot, Isabella, Ingham, Shiawassee, Saginaw, Midland, Bay, Genesee, Sanilac, Monroe, Lenawee, Jackson.

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The recommendation in those communities is to talk to your health care provider about whether to wear a mask or take other precautions if you’re at high risk for severe illness with COVID-19. In addition, the CDC suggests staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and getting tested if you are symptomatic.

Case rates and hospitalizations in the state are rising yet again as rapidly spreading omicron subvariants BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 gain prevalence. 

On Wednesday, the state health department reported 823 people were hospitalized with coronavirus — up about 90% from a month ago, when 430 people with the virus were getting hospital care. 

It’s still nowhere near levels of hospitalization Michigan saw in January, when the state hit pandemic peaks with more than 4,600 people hospitalized with the virus.

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What it means:COVID-19 cases in Michigan expected to climb through May

The state reached a seven-day average of 3,958 new daily cases on Wednesday — the highest point since February, when Michigan was coming down from the initial omicron surge.

Even though few pandemic restrictions remain in place, people can still choose to take steps to protect themselves by getting vaccinated, boosted and using some tried-and-true mitigation measures, according to Emily Martin, associate professor of epidemiology for the University of Michigan School of Public Health. 

“Even though the political landscape has changed and sort of the recommendation landscape has changed, the same things work now that worked a few months ago,” Martin said in a Twitter Space chat discussing the future of COVID-19.

“Masks still work, and higher-quality masks still provide a higher level of protection. Being outdoors is still better than being indoors and being in less crowded spaces is still … better than being in crowded spaces.”

Treatments like the antiviral drug Paxlovid are available now that can reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from the virus. Monoclonal antibody therapy is an option, too, for people who are vulnerable. 

“And the sooner you test, the sooner you can access treatment and the sooner … you use them, the better they work,” Martin said. “There are things that we can do with a positive result to make you feel better. And so it’s important to test so that you know that you’re positive so then you can seek the treatment.”

Contact Kristen Shamus: kshamus@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus. 

Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus. 

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