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State promotes shots, not restrictions, during surge

DETROIT (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration is focusing on getting more people vaccinated, not imposing new restrictions on the economy, despite a wave of COVID-19 cases and crowded hospitals, Michigan’s health director said Wednesday.

Elizabeth Hertel noted that indoor high school sports, a source of infections, are wrapping up soon, and spring sports are outdoors where close contact is less likely. All teen athletes must be regularly tested, a rule that began Friday.

Hertel spoke to reporters while her department shared more unflattering statistics. Michigan lately has been at or near the top in the U.S. for new COVID-19 cases: More than 47,000 cases, or 471 per 100,000 people, in the last seven days, the federal government reported Tuesday afternoon.

About 37% of residents 16 and older has had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the state health department said.

“Our focus right now continues on making sure we’re getting as many people vaccinated as possible,” Hertel said. “We still do have a number of restrictions in place that limit gathering sizes.”

Earlier, in Washington, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Michigan to come up with “stronger mitigation strategies” that decrease community activity.

The number of people with COVID-19 admitted to Michigan hospitals has doubled every 12 to 14 days for three weeks, the state said.

“We know that our hospitals are well-equipped to handle these surges,” Hertel said. “We’ve seen them do it a number of times now, unfortunately.”

The state epidemiologist, who tracks the spread and control of COVID-19, predicted the spike will ease in the weeks ahead.

“Now with COVID, I guess I should learn not to say things like that in public because we don’t know what the virus will do,” Sarah Lyon-Callo said. “However, based on what I understand now about how the virus works and how the vaccine is working and how well the vaccine campaign is going, I’m very optimistic.”

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