As barrels of at-home COVID-19 tests wait to be picked through and new daily COVID-19 case numbers continue to decline, Michigan’s Senate Republican Leader is calling on the state to “back off on our obsession on testing.”

“. . . Especially since Omicron remains the dominant strain,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake). “Too many false positives. And negative tests often cause people (with symptoms) to unintentionally spread other viruses like the flu. If you’re sick, stay home.”

Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,656 new cases of the virus since the report on March 4, as well as 16 deaths due to the virus.

A seven-day positive rate of 4.86% – with average per-day diagnostic testing up from around 50,000 to 60,000 – was the lowest it’s been since July 2021. Additionally, there were 777 adults hospitalized with a confirmed case of COVID-19, which is down by nearly 83% from December 2021, when there were 4,504.

Shirkey has been recognized for his head-turning comments on COVID-19 – from criticizing lockdowns to promoting natural immunity. He continues to say the early COVID-19 isolation orders of 2020 were “more costly in lives and livelihoods than COVID itself” and that the cost-benefit of vaccines is still unfolding.

“History has now clearly vindicated me from all of the nasty and visceral attacks,” the Republican said.

On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) told MIRS Monday her own opinions on how the spread of the virus should be mitigated “is really kind of irrelevant,” adding “it’s mostly about following the best medical advice available and really respecting the people around me.”

When asked on the MIRS Monday podcast on whether there would be a mask mandate at one of her campaign fundraising events, Brinks said there would be no rules, but masks will be available for attendees wanting to wear one and outdoor venues will be preferred as the weather gets warmer.

“(I’m) always concerned and always watching the numbers, so if the situation gets worse again or we see another spike or a new variant, we’ll constantly reevaluate that,” she said. “We’re kind of in that area where it’s a little bit gray, there’s no one clear answer.”

Dr. Peter Gulick, an associate professor of medicine at Michigan State University, told MIRS he’s cautiously optimistic. He illustrated that while people just want the pandemic to go away and forget about it completely, now is still the time to observe and monitor surroundings.

“I’m doing more activities. I’m lecturing out in groups now, whereas before I would be doing everything virtually. I still carry a mask around. I’ve been boostered and vaccinated and all that other stuff,” he said. “I think the big group that you have to be very, very careful of is that 3% immunocompromised group.”

However, Gulick said more immunocompromised individuals are taking Evusheld, which is a long-acting antibody cocktail approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to give those with weak immune systems stronger safeguards against COVID-19.

“If you have immunosuppression from cancer, bone marrow transplants, AIDS patients . . . you can get this shot and it lasts for at least six months and it will give you active protection against the Omicron and different COVID-19 variants,” he said.

However, when asked about testing specifically, Gulick said if someone is having symptoms of a sore throat, coughing, shortness of breath and similar conditions, they should be encouraged to get tested.

“A lot of people are doing rapid testing and those don’t always go to the health departments to get sequenced, but having sequencing will tell you if a new variant all of a sudden occurs, which is something that could occur anytime,” he said.

This story courtesy of MIRS, a Lansing-based news and information service.