COVID Cases Surge in Michigan and Minnesota as Upper Midwest Flares Into a Hotspot

As pandemic safety measures are being relaxed or even removed in some areas of the country due to high vaccination rates and low positive test rates, hospitals in Michigan and Minnesota reported a surge in COVID patients Tuesday.

According to The Associated Press, Michigan reported just over 3,000 COVID patients in hospitals this week, the highest amount since spring. Minnesota currently has almost all of its hospital beds filled, making the two states current hotspots of the virus.

Nationwide hospitalizations have stabilized around 40,000 in recent weeks, down from over 90,000 at the height of the Delta variant wave.

Bob Riney, chief operating officer at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, said he hears front-line hospital workers disheartened at the rising numbers, especially as the majority of hospitalized patients are unvaccinated while the vaccines are easily available.

In Minnesota, Health Director Jan Malcolm said she is prepared to expand access to booster shots to all adults over 18 instead of the current CDC recommendation of those at higher risk of COVID and those over 65.

Arkansas recently joined California, Colorado and New Mexico in deciding to provide booster shot access as the holiday and winter season approaches, driving many people into their homes and closer to family more frequently.

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

COVID, Michigan, Minnesota, Vaccine
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on plans to stop the spread of the Delta variant and boost Covid-19 vaccinations at the State Dinning Room of the White House, in Washington, DC on September 9, 2021. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

It "should be alarming to all of us," Riney said of the hospital crush.

Virus spread has slowed in the South to the point that more locations are doing away with mask restrictions.

But pockets of the country are seeing surges, including the Northeast, Rockies and Upper Midwest.

Henry Ford Health and Spectrum Health across the state in Grand Rapids, Michigan, together reported 700 COVID-19 patients in their hospitals, the majority of whom were not vaccinated. Positive test rates were running above 20 percent.

Michigan had the country's highest seven-day COVID-19 case rate at 503 per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Minnesota was No. 2 at 490.

"All of us had hoped that we'd be in a very different place as we approach this Thanksgiving season. But we really are not," Riney said.

"These are the women and men that the community celebrated last year," he said. "Parades were held in their honor. They were touted as the heroes they are. ... They haven't gotten a break."

"As we now head indoors for the winter and gather for the holidays, this booster protection is particularly important and timely," Malcolm said.

Elsewhere, some communities in the South were easing virus restrictions as a result of high vaccination rates and low numbers of positive tests.

Louisiana State University dropped an indoor mask order on campus. More than eight out of every 10 students and 79 percent of staff are vaccinated against COVID-19.

"We are moving forward with confidence but with caution," President William Tate said.

Masks and social distancing now are optional in Florida courthouses. Chief Justice Charles Canady noted that nearly 70 percent of eligible Florida residents were fully vaccinated and the rate of new COVID-19 cases had dropped.

In Orange County, Florida, which includes Orlando, county employees are no longer required to wear masks indoors, although masks still are recommended. Local virus transmission risk was downgraded to moderate.