Lansing Lines is presented in cooperation with MIRS, a Lansing-based news and information service.

Shirkey Shows His Work On COVID Immunity Calculations
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) explained his calculation that Michigan residents are already at 70% immunity to COVID, if you’re counting “broad-based community immunity” rather than just shots in arms, in an interview with WRFH radio this week.

The state reports that more than 660,000 Michiganders have had the disease and recovered.

“We are greater than 50% of eligible adults (who) have at least received one shot and then — based on studies from Yale, Stanford, Columbia, Harvard, they all have done their own independent studies suggesting that states’ numbers who have recorded cases are anywhere from two to six times underreported, ” Shirkey told Scot Bertram of Radio Free Hillsdale May 6.

Shirkey continued: “So let’s just use the multiple of two and half. Michigan has over two million people who have had the virus and recovered. They have developed their own natural immunity so it seems to me it would be a sum, the addition of those have received shots plus those who have recovered that have naturally acquired immunity. That number in Michigan is already at 70%.”

A University of Texas study also concluded cases are undercounted.

And Israel includes those who have had the infection in its calculations for reaching herd immunity, according to the BBC.

Shirkey said he’s asked the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to refute his calculations and has not yet received a response.

Shirkey had contended the state was at 70% immunity earlier in the week but didn’t explain how he got to that number.

That was a reaction to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement that restrictions could be completely eased when the state achieves a 70% vaccination rate.

Shirkey contended that “naturally acquired immunity” from other COVID-related diseases like SARS and MERS have been proven to last 10, 12, 14 years.

“Obviously, that means they can last longer. Nobody can predict how long, but it is very robust,” Shirkey contended. “And so why would the scientific community expect this particular virus to not result in extended natural immunity? The only reason I can think of is because they have more of a focus on shots in arms than on what we really should be trying to achieve, and that is broad-based community immunity.”

He said the reason he’s pressing the issue is because he doesn’t want the state to get to 69% or 70% “and there be another ‘however,’ or a ‘but.'”

“People in Michigan, businesses in Michigan, need clarity. When will we actually lift these restrictions and when will we be able to cross the line through this definition and be removed from the emergency declaration?” he said.

Shirkey, who has had COVID, bristled at the idea of labeling people “vaccine reluctant.”

“It’s not a reluctance, it’s a flat-out calculation that I don’t need it if this has occurred. Now that is not the case for those who are really, really vulnerable. And that is why we need to continue to have these available for those that are in that category,” he said.

Nothing in the conversation should be interpreted “as discounting the fact that COVID is very real and for some people very dangerous,” Shirkey said.

Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson for the DHHS, said the benchmarks in the Vacc to Normal plan are based on vaccinations because they are the best tool for protecting people from the virus.

“The CDC recommends that individuals who have had the virus get the COVID-19 vaccine. There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again; this is called natural immunity. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. For this reason, people who have already had the virus but haven’t been vaccinated aren’t included in the 70% calculation,” Sutfin explained.

As of today, 4.1 million Michiganders have initiated vaccination and more than 3.3 million have completed it, Sutfin said.

The Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) accused Shirkey of doubling down “on his baseless and dangerous claims,” in a press release.

“The only thing that’s a bigger threat to Michigan than COVID-19 itself is the GOP’s sustained refusal to acknowledge reality and listen to the science that will safely guide us out of this pandemic,” said Rodericka Applewhaite, MDP spokeswoman. “Michiganders have been waiting over a year for Mike Shirkey and Republicans across the state to start taking this virus seriously. Instead, he’s knowingly throwing out bad numbers and fake science.”

Vaccination Passport Ban Pitched As Preemptive Legislation
“Vaccination passports” or requiring an inoculation for a person to gain entry into a government building or business would be prohibited under legislation considered by the House Oversight Committee May 6.

Nobody has proposed such a concept in Michigan or at the federal level, but Rep. Sue Allor (R-Wolverine) said she’s concerned it will, which would put her in an awkward position.

The third-term House member said she has not received the vaccine due to her own medical conditions.

“Without the vaccine, without a passport indicating I’ve received it, will I be prohibited from attending my grandchildren’s school events? Will I be prohibited from taking them to see the Detroit Tigers play? Will I be prohibited from visiting loved ones who may be hospitalized and would I be prohibited from going to my local grocery store for food items? This is frightening. In fact, it is terrifying,” Allor said.

Her HB 4667 would prohibit the state or a local unit of government from producing or issuing a vaccine passport, or providing incentives for the use of such documentation.

Outside the House Office Building, a few dozen unmasked protestors gathered to show their support for Allor’s bill.

“If these hypothetical questions did become realities, it would then be too late, too late in the sense that the exposure of a person’s personal medical information may have already had a significant impact on him or her,” Allor told the committee. “Although nefarious, would the use of a vaccine passport ultimately reveal our daily activities if we were required to scan the app on our smart phone to enter a place of business or government building?”

Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp.) said the bill has much broader implications.

For one, she contended, it would ban the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination card people are given when they get a vaccination.

“I’m not sure you understand the implications. It would prohibit all health care providers from recording and accessing state of Michigan data on the COVID-19 vaccination status of Michigan residents,” Brixie said. “. . . What your bill does is it goes far beyond that and it prohibits health care providers from having access to vaccination information, so this is going to dramatically impair our ability to administer the vaccine and end the pandemic.”

Brixie said the Michigan Care Improvement Registry serves as an electronic database of vaccine information and is maintained by the state. Providers access it to check the vaccination status of their patients, Brixie said.

Allor admitted the bill was “preemptive” in its purpose. And she said a substitute was being worked on that might address Brixie’s concerns. The substitute was not ready for the hearing.

Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) said it’s a bad idea for lawmakers to start issuing preemptive legislation “because it is hard to know what we are even talking about.”

“We could have a bill to ban moving the state Capitol to the bottom of the lake. I wouldn’t want to have to scuba dive to go to work. There’s infinite numbers of things we could ban preemptively,” LaGrand said. “. . . I think our job is frankly to take action and set policy on things that are actively under consideration.”

LaGrand said vaccine passports are “kind of like Bigfoot.”

Naomi Wolf, who billed herself as a writer of nonfiction from New York state, said vaccine passports are already in use there.

“Vaccine passports are not a hypothetical. And respectfully, they are not a Bigfoot. They are not something in the future. They are not even in development. Vaccine passports are now. They are being used in my home state of New York state, called the Excelsior Pass. People cannot go to the Mets game if they don’t show their Excelsior Pass, by the directive of our Gov. Andrew Cuomo,” Wolf said. “. . . So in New York state, I am not free to not be discriminated against already.”

Following the hearing, Progress Michigan issued a press release calling Wolf a conspiracy theorist and anti-vaxxer.

The hearing continues “continuing a well-established trend of Republican lawmakers amplifying disinformation and anti-science talking points,” Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott’s press release contended.

Florida resident Lori Roman, president of the American Constitutional Rights Union, testified by Zoom that we’ve already experienced unprecedented restrictions on freedoms by the executive branch during the pandemic.

“The founders risked everything to protect liberty and I can only imagine what they would think about COVID passports,” Roman said. “They are antithetical to liberty, to freedom of association, medical choice and privacy and full participation in society. And once they are implemented, there is likely no return to a free republic.”

She, too, contended vaccine passports are already in use, including on college campuses.

“My organization represents students across the country who are fighting them on their campuses, who have to swipe apps to prove they have either had a test or had a vaccination in order to gain access to the food they have already paid for in their meal plan, access to their dorms, access to their classes. This is not hypothetical. This is Orwellian and it’s now,” Roman said.

It doesn’t make a difference if the vaccine passport is created by government or a private company using a government incentive, Roman said, it’s still unconstitutional.

“When private companies have been coopted by government forces to act to benefit a particular regime within the government, then we have entered a dangerous period of fascism. Tying private medical choice to the ability to participate in society is unconstitutional and it is unconstitutional whether it is done by the government or by the private sector with encouragement and incentives from the government,” Roman said.

DeAnna Huizinga said she has three boys, all of whom are healthy.

“I’ve noticed that they get tested once a week or they can’t play sports. If they don’t take this test to see if they are positive or negative for COVID, they are not able to play sports. If they don’t take the test they can practice with their team but they can’t play with their friends. For me, this is just the beginning of what I see happening with the vaccine passport. Will my kids not even be able to go to school if they don’t show that they’ve had a vaccine,” Huizinga said.

She said she doesn’t call it a vaccine because it has not been fully approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

“I think it’s an experiment,” Huizinga said.

Genevieve Marnon, of Michigan Right to Life also testified, saying the vaccines were developed from tissue from fetuses aborted back in the 1970s and 1980s.

“Each dose may also contain residual amounts of host cell proteins and/or host cell DNA. This means that the vaccine itself contains a tiny amount of fragmented fetal DNA that is being injected into your body. To those of us have a conscience objection to abortion, you can see how this would be a violation of some people’s conscience,” Marnon said.

No testimony was heard by the committee today from a medical expert, health care provider, public health expert or from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Oversight Chair Steven Johnson (R-Wayland) said he wants to vote on the bill in mid-May and spoke positively about the bill.

“The intention is very clear. We want to make sure the government is not treating two tiers of citizens based off of personal medical decisions. That is our intention here,” he said.

Chelsea Lewis-Parisio, chief deputy press secretary for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, said vaccines are the best way for people to keep themselves and their families safe from COVID.

“The state has been very clear that they’re not currently exploring a vaccine passport concept. Instead of working with us to increase vaccinations across our state, Republicans would rather continue a circus and listen to an unaccredited conspiracy theorist, wasting time and taxpayer dollars. Governor Whitmer will not be distracted by such noise. She remains laser-focused on encouraging every Michigander to get a vaccine so that we can all get back to normal,” Lewis-Parisio said.

Likewise, DHHS is “not currently exploring a vaccine passport concept,” according to spokesperson Lynn Sutfin.

“MDHHS continues to focus on vaccinating as many Michiganders as possible to help us reach our goal of vaccinating 70% of Michigan residents ages 16 and older with the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine,” Sutfin said.

Rep. Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann), a member of the Oversight Committee, issued a press release following the hearing, saying the idea of a vaccine passport has ramifications that the state must discuss.

“My concern with the notion of a vaccine passport is that it’s a slippery slope to two classes of citizens based on a personal choice they make regarding their health. It is extremely important to work toward neutralizing COVID-19 and emerging with a healthy population and a healthy economy. Incentivizing vaccinations by curtailing individual liberties and telling people where they can’t go is the wrong way to approach it,” O’Malley said.

Rep. Pat Outman (R-Six Lakes) issued his own release, calling vaccine passports a “dark reality.”

“We are not alone in viewing the idea of vaccine passports as a threat,” Outman said. “Our friends in Arizona, Florida and Idaho, just to name a few, have banned this sinister attack on medical privacy that continues to be disguised as a benign act of public safety . . . Although the state of Michigan does not currently have plans to move forward with a passport program, I believe this bill prudently prevents further government overreach.”

Statewide Vaccinations On A Four-Week Slide
Weekly vaccinations peaked at 670,113 for the week ending April 10, but since then, that number has dropped every week.

For the week ending Saturday, April 17, it was 619,379 vaccinations. For April 24, it was 555,801. Then it was 423,044 for the week ending May 1.

Looking at daily statewide vaccination numbers, the state hit a peak of 137,198 doses given April 8. The state was last in six figures on April 23, and since then, the daily numbers haven’t crested above the 86,809 doses given April 29.

On March 31, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the state’s goal would be to vaccinate 100,000 people every day.

Since that date, that number has been reached on 13 days of the 35 days from March 31 to May 4, which was the latest data available to MIRS.

At the beginning of May, when Whitmer announced her Vacc to Normal plan, she predicted the state would reach the first tier to lift restrictions 55% partially vaccinated—by the end of the first week of May.

However, the amount partially vaccinated at the time of the announcement was 48%, and it’s now at 50.9%. There are 39.9% who are completely vaccinated.

At the Michigan State University Pavilion mass vaccination center, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) said people can just walk right up and get the vaccine. That day’s comparatively scant showing at the Pavilion for vaccinations would seem to indicate he’s right.

While Ingham County health officials believe at least half its population is at least partially vaccinated, the shots being given out at the MSU Pavilion have slowed recently.

The mass vaccination center was doing 1,650 vaccines at its peak, but today there were 464, said Amanda Darche, spokesperson for the Ingham County Health Department, who also said the site was doing about 900-1,000 first doses and now that number is about 106.

Darche said the county may transition to doing more hyper-local vaccination sites.

Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said that what’s happening in Michigan and across the country is a “waning of the demand to get a vaccine right now.”

She said the factors include reluctance as well as convenience—“I don’t want to come to you; when you’re ready to be there for me, and I’ll get my vaccine.”

Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said “there has been a change in the supply-demand for vaccines nationally and in Michigan recently” and that the state continues its vaccination campaign “by bringing vaccines to the homebound, into neighborhoods, churches and other venues that are convenient for all Michigan residents to access.”

Meanwhile, the state added another 3,514 cases to the confirmed COVID-19 count, a slight increase over previous daily numbers, to make the new cumulative number 858,050 cases.

Another 115 deaths were added to the toll today to bring the total beyond 18,000 to 18,054 deaths since the pandemic struck Michigan.

Michigan Not First In COVID . . . In Some Categories
The Whitmer administration is not scheduled to do a public press conference on the COVID-19 front, but if she did, she’d have some positive news to report.

According to The New York Times data, Michigan is no longer the national hotbed for COVID outbreaks.

Florida now ranks No. 1 in the nation with the highest average daily COVID count of 4,595 new cases a day. Michigan is still tops in highest new cases per 100,000 people, though, with 36, followed by Minnesota at 27 and Colorado at 26.

California is No. 1 in number of daily COVID deaths at 70.4 with Michigan right behind at 69.9. When those numbers are divided on a per-100,000-person basis, though, Michigan is No. 1 with .7 deaths, followed by New Jersey at .32 and New Mexico at .3.

Florida has more people in hospitals due to COVID at 3,729 and New York has 3,421 people. But Michigan is still No. 3 with 3,212 hospitalizations from COVID-19. It’s also No. 1 still in hospitalizations per 100,000 with 32. The District of Columbia is second at 24.

The hospital head count of 3,212 is down 25% over the last 14 days. The average case count is down 48% but the death rate is up 15% to 69 per day.

The number of tests has dropped off by 29% which is not a good sign.

Some good news in Michigan is that only six out of the state’s 83 counties, or about 7% have a rising case load and in this area, Ingham, Jackson, Clinton, Ionia, and Livingston Counties are averaging about 50% fewer cases over the last two-week span.

On the University front, the University of Michigan’s number is 3,594 current Covid cases. Michigan State University has 1,685, Grand Valley is at 1,169, followed by Eastern Michigan at 446 and Central at 374.

As of May 5, 2,589 new COVID-19 case numbers were reported by the Department of Health and Human Services, which is roughly the same as the day prior. It’s been nearly two months since Michigan has had back-to-back days of reported cases less than 3,000.

The total number of new deaths is 42. Combined, Michigan sits at 854,536 total cases, roughly the population of Macomb County. The 17,939 total deaths since the pandemic started is roughly the size of the city of Wayne.

xxx Mental Health Support; Teacher Shortage Highlights Senate Conversation
Steering $1.5 million toward youth mental health support and putting additional money to address a growing teacher shortage highlighted a Senate panel’s work today on next year’s spending plan for public schools.

The Senate Republicans were receptive to the additional spending proposed by Democrats at today’s Senate Appropriations Committees, but they had different plans on how to address both issues.

Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) proposed an amendment reissuing $2.895 million for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s program to encourage aspiring teachers to stay in the state—sharing the message to potential educators as young as high schoolers.

“While this is certainly a critical problem, funding without a comprehensible plan . . . is just a band aid solution,” said Chair Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) of the Senate K-12 and MDE Appropriations Subcommittee. “There’s already a program in place in the higher ed budget that has the goal of increasing recruitment and retention of teachers in underserved populations.”

As for Bayer’s amendment providing mental health support to youngsters aged 0-5 years-old, Schmidt said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ (MDHHS) budget would be the best place to deal with the issue.

The Senate is offering up more than $13.95 billion in total spending to the K-12 and Michigan Department of Education (MDE) budget, which is less than the House and Governor proposed. However, the Senate did distribute more from the General Fund into school aid and proposed the larger increase of $125-$250 per-pupil in the foundation allowance.

While the 2020-2021 academic year saw the disappearance of 61,940 students when it came time to arrive in the fall, teacher retirements in August 2020 and February 2021 increased 44% from the same time period in 2019-2020–representing “just shy of 800 educators,” according to FOX 17.

In the Senate’s budget, $55.6 million of the School Aid Fund and $1.3 million of the General Fund would be used for school mental health and support services, with $45.8 million in grants being available to intermediate school districts (ISDs) and districts for such resources.

The subcommittee also appropriated $1.368 million to a competitive grant program funding training for school mental health professionals, which neither the Governor nor the House featured in their proposals.

Bayer also presented an amendment asking $100,000 from the Library of Michigan funding be used to support Michigan’s Poet Laureate Program, saying the Library’s fund usually lapses by two or three times annually.

“While I too enjoy a good poem, I don’t want to take monies from the Library of Michigan and we have a few other places that we can use that $100,000,” Schmidt said.

None of Bayer’s four amendments were adopted.

Universities Resources Still Can’t Refer Abortion Services

Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee slammed the door on Sen. Adam Hollier’s (D-Detroit) two amendments to the higher education budget allowing an institution to provide referrals to abortion services when appropriate.

An institution is allowed under current law to share referrals on prenatal care and delivery, infant or foster care, adoption and family planning to students’ who request the information.

The topic of abortion is formally banned from the table for those utilizing funding from the Martin Luther King Jr.–Cesar Chavez–Rosa Parks (KCP) pregnant and parenting student support services program.

“(Although) the program is optional, if a college or university did opt in, they would be prohibited from talking about abortion as we know, is a critically important part of healthcare. It’s a health care discussion that people should be aware of, that they should have medical professionals who are able to give them good advice,” Hollier said. “We also should not be diverting KCP funding to do this.”

Under the program, a collegiate institution can earn an award of up to $50,000, which “must be matched on a 70% state, 30% college or university basis.”

Chair Kimberly LaSata (R-Bainbridge Twp.) said the language within the proposal is the same included in Public Act 500 of 2004, which created a pregnant and parenting student services fund to encourage universities and colleges to expand resources for such students.

“As a strong advocate for life and getting more kids into the classrooms and growing our state and because this section is voluntary, I do not support this amendment,” LaSata said.

Ultimately, when it comes to the higher education budget, the Senate proposed more than $1.578 billion in total spending and more than $1.217 billion in General Fund dollars.

Outdoor Mask Mandate Mostly Gone, Fully-Vaxxed Can Go Maskless At Gatherings
Masks will no longer be needed outdoors unless a gathering exceeds 100 people, under the latest update to the state’s COVID-19 epidemic orders.

The new Michigan Department of Health and Human Services order announced today also allows anyone fully vaccinated and not experiencing symptoms to go mask-less at residential gatherings, including indoor ones. The order goes into effect Thursday and runs through May 31.

Large outdoor events, including festivals, fairs, and golf tournaments will be able to exceed the current 1,000-person limit provided they create a safety plan in which no more than 20 people are congregating per 1,000 square feet.

The new order also provides residential outdoor gatherings to go to 50 people. And if the density does not exceed 20 persons per 1,000 square feet of usable outdoor space, up to 300 people may be gathered.

The DHHS said outdoor stadiums complying with “enhanced protocols” will continue to be allowed to operate at 20% of their fixed seating capacity.

Outdoor stadiums or arenas with a fixed seating capacity of 5,000 or greater that aren’t deploying enhanced protocols may have 1,000 patrons, up from the previous 750. For stadiums and arenas above 10,000 but with no protocols, 1,500 people are allowed.

New guidance announced by the DHHS drops the required routine testing for fully vaccinated organized sports participants if they are asymptomatic.

The DHHS said masks will continue to be required for contact sports but are no longer required outdoors during active practice and competition for non-contact sports.

The updated COVID requirements come as the state added 2,527 more confirmed COVID cases today, the lowest reported in a single day since March 20, when there were 2,660 cases. Between then and now, the daily report had not dropped below 3,000 cases in a single report.

The total cases for the pandemic in Michigan are now at 851,947. Another 126 deaths reported today take that total to 17,897.

Border Republicans Want Out-Of-State Shots To Count Toward Vacc To Normal

Eight Republican lawmakers representing border counties urged the Governor to include Michigan residents vaccinated out-of-state in the reopening benchmarks announced as part of the “Vacc to Normal” plan.

The lawmakers’ letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said “Michigan had one of the worst vaccine rollouts across the nation, which spurred many people to cross state borders into Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin to receive the vaccine” and that “the low vaccination rates associated with these border counties do not accurately reflect reality.”

They asked the governor to expand existing benchmarks and create a more reliable recording process to include those vaccinated out of state.

As of May 4, 39% of eligible Michiganders have begun their vaccination series and 50% have at least partially vaccinated.

“Allowing other states or countries to report vaccinations back to Michigan authorities would be beneficial, as an updated system would easily count Florida snowbirds, like (the governor’s) own father, and those vaccinated in other countries, like Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, toward the totals.

Biden Wants 70% Of America At Least Partially Vaxxed By July 4

President Joe Biden announced a national goal of getting at least 70% of Americans to get one dose of a vaccine by July 4.

That prompted a response from Whitmer, who said that “after reaching 200 million shots in arms by President Biden’s 100th day in office, the federal government is following Michigan’s lead by announcing a new goal to have 70% of Americans vaccinated with at least one dose so we can return to the normalcy that we all crave as safely as possible.”

Shirkey Left Out Of Vacc To Normal Plan; Thinks State’s Already At 70% Immunity
In an interview on the “Late Mornings” show with WJR, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said he thinks the Governor’s reopening plan linked to the vaccination rate in the state “falls short.”

“We were contemplating talking about getting respected seats at the table. In the governor’s case, having her and her staff at the table when talking about appropriations and deploying money, and in our case, the Legislature having a seat at the table with regards to making decisions such as the reopening plan,” Shirkey said.

He said while he and House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell) started with some suggested talking points and beginning points, Shirkey said he “was not involved in any conversation, negotiating or sharing session with regards to establishing this criteria, which is disappointing.”

Under the metrics Gov. Gretchen Whitmer laid out—which Shirkey complimented the governor for presenting as it was “long overdue”—all indoor capacity requirements would be eliminated 14 days after 5.2 million Michigan residents received their first dose and the entire order on face masks and gatherings would be withdrawn once the number reached 5.6 million.

The Associated Press reported May 1 Shirkey has not started any type of vaccination series against COVID-19 since being infected with the virus near the end of 2020. However, he’s taken the position of strongly encouraging anyone who “desires” the vaccine to participate.

“Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, more importantly, we’re asking the wrong question—what are we trying to achieve? A number of shots or immunity?” Shirkey said. “What I’m suggesting is, by the state’s own data, more than half the Michigan people that are eligible have already received their shots. If you add to that, the 2 million-plus people who have already gotten both COVID and recovered from it and their natural immunity that they acquire because of that, we are already in the 70%.”

His point in this is that he said “I think we should be opening this week.”

The state eclipsed 7 million COVID-19 vaccines administered to Michiganders May 3, which has resulted in 38% of people being fully vaccinated and half of the eligible population of 8 million people partially vaccinated.

The governor’s office said the 7 million shots threshold means “we’ve put shots in arms of 1 in 2 Michiganders 16 and up and over 1 in 3 are fully vaccinated, including 2 in 3 seniors.”

The total number of COVID-19 cases for the pandemic is now at 849,420. And there have been more than 660,000 COVID-19 recoveries in Michigan.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals should be vaccinated even after having been infected with COVID-19 because “experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19.”

Dr. Farhan Bhatti, the Michigan state lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care, said in reaction to Shirkey’s comments that “Claiming that 70% of Michiganders are immune to COVID-19 is false and dangerous, especially when the claim is coming from someone who is supposed to be a leader.

“These comments from Leader Shirkey are the latest in the long line of inaccuracies and pieces of disinformation that have prolonged this pandemic and led to unnecessary deaths and illnesses,” Bhatti said.

Meanwhile, the state added 5,035 more COVID-19 cases from the cases that came in from May 2 and May 3.

For the state’s COVID case Monday reports that cover two days, May 3 is the lowest in a month’s time. On April 5, that report was 10,293 cases. The next week, it was 9,764 cases. The week after it was 8,574 cases and last week, it was 6,524 cases.

The total number of cases for the pandemic was at 849,420 May 3.

There were 29 deaths added from May 2 and May 3, but the 131 reported on May 1 was the sixth time since April 15 that the daily death count was above 100. The total COVID death toll now stands at 17,771.

What Happens If Vaccinations Plateau Short Of 70%?
What happens if Michigan doesn’t get to the 70% vaccination goal that the Whitmer administration needs to see before it lifts all the remaining COVID-19 restrictions?

House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) told the Detroit Regional Chamber today that infection rates and hospitalization rates may need to be considered.

Overall, the two Republican legislative leaders and two Democratic legislative leaders were supportive of the administration’s use of metrics to give people something to shoot for before the indoor occupancy restrictions and face mask orders are gone.

The concern is over a “plateauing” of COVID vaccination rates that’s expected to occur when the number of available vaccines exceeds the number of unvaccinated residents willing to get poked twice (or once with the J&J shot) in the arm.

“We can only encourage so many people to (get vaccinated),” Wentworth said. “What happens if we don’t get to 70? What does that look like and I get that that is a possibility.”

Behind the scenes, Republican leaders wonder what might have been had they been invited to Thursday’s press conference on the Governor’s “Vacc to Normal” plan.

Much of the resistance to receiving the vaccine is coming from rural, mostly Republican areas. If conservative leaders been able to stand with the governor in announcing the union of vaccinations to COVID restriction elimination, would it have reached a population who possibly received the Governor’s solo announcement with skepticism?

Also, if Republicans could have received more assurances that rural Michigan would be getting an ample supply of vaccines, there may be more of a willingness to take the shot, even if the reluctant population feels they have the antibodies.

As it is, the governor is receiving wide support and praise from the business communities for going down this road. But an opportunity was lost to show—for the first time in nearly two years—significant bipartisan cooperation on a major initiative.

Shirkey, Wentworth and the governor have had a couple of cordial meetings in recent weeks as the trio tries to rebuild a relationship that was shattered, at best, during the pandemic.

Getting that final swath of people vaccinated is an emerging issue and Wentworth said he wants to be part of a “positive” message and not going down the road of “vaccine shaming.”

“When you call out certain groups of people, I think that creates an animosity that I don’t want to be a part of,” he said. “If you want to get the vaccine, you should be able to get it. Let’s focus on accessibility.”

For his part, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) used his opening comments to commend Shirkey and Wentworth for “articulating the need for a metrics-based system” to exit the pandemic.

“I think their leadership and their voice on this helped move the governor in this direction,” he said.

If a plateau is reached, House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) said leadership needs to work together to share the facts on vaccines. She envisions the private and public sector working together on a mix of public service announcements and commercials to get the word out.

The legislative quartet spoke with Michigan Public Radio’s Rick Pluta as part of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce’s “Advocacy in Action” series.

April ’21 Saw Second-Most COVID Cases Reported In Any Month
April 2021 ended with the second-most COVID cases reported in a month’s time in Michigan since the pandemic began, and it was the sixth-deadliest month of COVID deaths.

The number of cases reported to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) during April’s 30 days was 168,585, including the 3,440 added April 30. That amount is second overall for a month to the 182,269 cases tallied in November 2020.

The 36 COVID-19 fatalities added April 30 brought the amount recorded for April to 1,520. Five other months since March 2020 have had higher death counts.

The total numbers now stand at 840,954 cases and 17,611 deaths.

Half Of Eligible Population Now At Least Partially Vaccinated

On the vaccination front, the state is now reporting half of the eligible population has now initiated their COVID vaccine series, or just over 4 million. A total of 38% have completed their inoculation.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the governors of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Minnesota today released a video urging people to get their vaccines.

Ford Field Offering J&J Shots, Walk-Ins Begin May 4

The Ford Field mass vaccination site will be offering free one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines during its final two weeks of operation, starting May 4-17, according to a press release May 4.

The site will also provide free second doses of the Pfizer vaccine for anyone who has a need, no matter where the first dose was received. First dose needs to have occurred 21 days prior to receiving the second dose, and people should bring their vaccination card.

The site will accept walk-ins starting May 4, but people are still encouraged to register for an appointment. To date, more than 229,000 doses have been administered at this location.

59% Of Prison Population Vaccinated Against COVID

On the one hand, each of the 32,799 inmates in the state prison are masking up. That’s because it is mandatory for them and staffers.

But without a shot mandate from the state, 41% of the overall prison population is not inoculated at this point in time. Apparently, 13,163 prisoners have refused a shot.

9 Michigan Hospitals Operating At 96% Capacity Or Higher
Michigan had 3,470 adults and 46 pediatric patients hospitalized April 26 with confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nine hospitals operating at 96% capacity or higher.

Hospitals operating at 100% were:

– Ascension St. Joseph Hospital in Iosco County

– Beaumont Hospital, Wayne

– St Joseph Mercy Chelsea in Washtenaw County

Henry Ford Macomb Hospital and Detroit Receiving Hospital and University Health Center are serving at 99%, McLaren Flint and McLaren Greater Lansing at 97% and Sparrow in Lansing and McLaren Port Huron Hospital at 96%.

There are 531 adults with confirmed cases of COVID-19 being hospitalized and ventilated and 850 in the intensive care unit (ICU) with a confirmed infection.

Overall, 77% of hospital beds throughout Michigan are being occupied.

Wayne County leads the state in new cases with 1,381, followed by Macomb County at 720, Oakland County at 716, Kent at 522 and Genesee with 257. Schoolcraft and Luce counties reported no new cases April 26.

Out of the 28,902 diagnostic tests processed today, 10.98% were returned positive for SARS-CoV-2, making the average positivity rate throughout the past seven days 11.85%.

On April 20, the seven-day positivity rate for approximately 35,000 diagnostic tests reached above 13%.

As for cases, the state experienced 6,524 new cases and 25 deaths April 26 and April 25—more deaths and positive infections than Illinois (4,172 cases, 34 deaths), Indiana (1,529 cases, eight deaths), Wisconsin (832 cases, zero deaths) and Ohio (2,269 cases, zero deaths) combined.

As for the cumulative totals to be gathered from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ data, there have now been 825,844 positive cases of the virus and 17,324 deaths. Although a third of Michigan residents have now completed their vaccination series, the state continues to top the country with 381 cases per 100,000 individuals—a drop from the 519 cases from the previous week, although still a leading number.

At 5:28 a.m., WXYZ Detroit reported that out of more than 2.7 million fully vaccinated residents, there have been 334 breakthrough cases of individuals contracting COVID-19 after capping off their vaccination series as of the end of April. In the larger data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 7,157 breakthrough cases reported out of 87 million fully vaccinated Americans.

Ultimately, the percentage of fully-vaccinated citizens being infected by the virus afterward is at less than .01%.

Michigan’s seven-day moving average for daily COVID-19 cases reached 4,566 April 26, lower than it was the previous week while the same seven-day average for deaths was higher than the last two weeks at 57. The state’s fatality rate has been cultivated to 2.1%.