COVID spike across Michigan, country impacts many

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Over the last month, COVID-19 cases have reached record numbers in Michigan and across the country, prompting the rollout of a new round of emergency orders.
Michigan’s cases hit an all-time high on November 10, with 8,104 cases according to counts from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). Numbers are increasing exponentially nationwide, with November 13 having a record 177, 246 reported cases according to the Washington Post.
States without mask mandates have been hit especially hard, with North and South Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, and Nebraska leading in cases per capita. Total cases in the US are now up to 11.3 million as of November 16, with over 247,000 deaths nationwide.
Several states, including California and Washington, have issued or reimposed restrictions on public places and social gatherings, and some states that did not previously mandate mask-wearing have begun to require them.
Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna have both released late-stage data from their vaccine trials, with the Pfizer vaccine being up to 90% effective and the Moderna vaccine being up to 94.5% effective. Both companies will have to collect more safety data on the vaccines before applying for emergency FDA approval, which would allow them to sell and distribute the vaccines.
COVID cases are more widespread in Michigan than they were previously, with counties that were largely unaffected earlier in the year seeing huge increases in positive tests, according to data from the New York Times.
The MDHHS has released a contact tracing app called MI COVID Alert that allows users to receive exposure notifications based on anonymous information exchanges with nearby phones. Users can also report positive test results, which allows anyone they have been exposed to over a ten-day period to be notified. Similar apps have been released in eleven other states.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on November 15 that a “three week pause” order would take effect throughout the state on November 18, shutting down high schools, colleges, indoor dining, and a number of other venues through December 9.
“I think this is the best way to get our cases down quickly and keep people safe,” senior Julia Gutierrez said.
Restaurants are limited to outdoor dining, delivery, and carryout services; gyms are open for individual exercise only; and any work that can be done remotely must be done that way. Theaters, stadiums, arenas, casinos, skating rinks, and bowling alleys are all closed, though college and professional sports will continue without spectators. Retail stores, hair salons, and public transit will operate normally.
“I think a three-week break isn’t the end of the world,” sophomore Owen McMath said. “The pause will save lives, but I hope it is truly only three weeks.”
School districts had the option to keep Pre-K through 8th grade schools in session, as cases are not as prevalent in young children, but most local districts, including WPS, returned to full virtual learning before the order took effect. The Wyandotte School Board decided on November 10 that instruction will stay online through at least the end of Christmas break.
“Since our COVID cases kept rising, I think this was the best way to ensure that no one else could possibly get sick at school,” Gutierrez said.
Pfizer is expected to apply for emergency vaccine approval by the end of November, with Moderna and several other companies close behind, with the possibility of vaccines being widely distributed by the early months of 2021.
“My hopes for the second half of the school year are that we are able to get back in-person, be able to get back to a somewhat normal routine, and finish off the year strong,” freshman Taylor Johnson said.