Detroit has shown no signs of COVID surge during holiday season

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Detroit suffered significant loss during the onset of the pandemic but mask wearing and social distance measures have helped keep numbers manageable. (Dedan Photography / Shutterstock.com)

Detroit, which once had the highest rates of COVID-19 in the nation, has not seen a spike in new cases due to Thanksgiving gatherings, according to state and city data.

The holiday was the latest test for the city that’s had one of the lowest rates of the coronavirus in Michigan for months. Many health and other officials feared a new surge in cases due to family and friends gathering in November. 

The surge has not yet materialized. Instead, numbers are dropping. As of Dec. 16, the city had 168 new cases and a seven-day average of 189 new daily cases. That’s significantly down from the prior seven-week average of 239 daily cases. In Detroit, the seven-day average of new daily cases has fallen for three consecutive weeks, according to city data

Detroit and Michigan saw the number of cases climb again starting in late October, according to state data. The increase continued until early December. It was part of a national trend as other states saw some of the highest numbers since the pandemic began.

But in Detroit, as well as Michigan, numbers are falling again. 

“All of this means that we are cautiously optimistic that there was not a post-Thanksgiving surge Many Michiganders did their part in keeping the spread of the virus down,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, at a Tuesday news conference.

“We showed that we care about ourselves, our families and our community. Let’s keep doing that,” she said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and national health leaders urged people to limit the size of Thanksgiving gatherings. The state health department pushed a simple message: “Do things small.”

However, case rates still remain alarmingly high; the percent of tests that are positive is four times the rate it was at the beginning of September,  Khaldun said.

Michigan has now recorded 11,208 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, with 190 deaths, the state reported Thursday afternoon. Michigan has had a total of 450,776 confirmed cases — the ninth highest total among all states—  since the pandemic began. On Thursday, the state reported 4,024 daily cases. 

Detroit suffered significant loss during the onset of the pandemic: 214 died in March, 1,063 in April, and another 248 in May. The deaths occurred throughout the city, across demographics and socioeconomic status. In April alone, an average of over 30 Detroiters died every day. 

But in recent months, Detroit has had some of the lowest levels of positive tests, cases and deaths in the state. Experts attribute to Detroiters’ vigilance with masks and social distancing, hard-won lessons from the city’s earlier pain.

City officials routinely credit the cooperation it has received from many businesses and religious institutions for helping enforce social distance measures.

The upcoming Christmas holidays — a time when many want to gather with family and friends  — may be another big test for Detroiters. The Church of the Messiah in the city’s Islandview neighborhood is among the many churches who switched to online services during the pandemic.

“Christmas will be a big test, but many Detroiters will rise to that challenge,too,” said Pastor Barry Randolph of the Church of Messiah. “Yes, there is pandemic fatigue. But the pain and threat of the coronavirus has not been forgotten.” The church has been reaching out to its members for some time now to remind them they are not alone during this holiday season, as well as reminding them of online events and other safe social distance methods. 

“We can still feel connected and part of a community through all this,” Randolph said.

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