LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday doubled Michigan’s daily COVID-19 vaccination goal to 100,000 shots.
She cited continuous week-over-week increases in vaccine allotments the state is receiving and an expanded number of providers who can administer doses. She called vaccinations safe, effective and essential to getting the country back to normal.
“These new, higher vaccine targets are a testament to what we can do together, and we need to meet them so we can keep rebuilding our economy,” the Democratic governor said in a statement.
The state’s direct allotment of doses - which is separate from vaccines going to pharmacies from the federal government - will total about 620,000 next week, a record. That is 12%, or roughly 66,000, more than this week and includes a substantial boost in the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Michigan is facing a third surge in cases. As of Wednesday, it had the nation’s highest infection rate over the past seven days. The state reported more than 6,300 new cases, which was the most in nearly four months.
Fourteen-day rates in Thumb region counties - Huron, St. Clair and Sanilac - ranked fourth-, fifth- and eighth-highest in the U.S. as of Tuesday.
Daily deaths are also rising, though they are still well below the peaks of last April and December. In the seven-day period that ended Monday, the daily average was 25 deaths - an increase from 16 two weeks earlier.
Whitmer loosened some restrictions meant to slow the spread of the virus after cases and hospitalizations dropped and amid a constant stream of Republican criticism for most of the pandemic. During a CNN appearance, she again appeared reluctant to tighten them a third time.
“We’re continuing to have robust conversations.,” she said. “There’s a lot of push and pull. What we need to do is double down on our masking and get more people vaccinated.”
She declined to directly answer when asked if it was a mistake to have eased limits - such as those on business capacity, youth contact sports and gathering sizes - but noted that restrictions remain. As she has before, she said this resurgence is different because vaccines are available.
Starting Monday, all people ages 16 and older in Michigan will be eligible for the vaccine. Whitmer is encouraging providers to prioritize the most vulnerable, including seniors and those with disabilities, but said they should go ahead and vaccinate healthier residents ages 16 through 49 now if there are unfilled appointments.
A third of Michigan’s 8.1 million people ages 16 and up have gotten at least one dose since vaccinations began in December. The state has reached its prior goal of 50,000 per day 38 times, according to the governor’s office.
Beaumont Health, Michigan’s biggest health system, said COVID-19 hospitalizations have tripled in a month. Statewide, the number of infected, hospitalized adults was approaching 60% of the highs from two previous surges.
“For now, the virus is moving faster than the vaccinations,” said John Fox, president and CEO of the eight-hospital network in the Detroit area.
Beaumont, which reinstated visitor restrictions last week, said fully vaccinated people can visit if they show a record of their vaccination card. One vaccinated person per day can visit a non-COVID patient.
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