COVID test being performed on a senior woman. Care provider is wearing full PPE.

Michigan providers are on high alert following a huge, unexpected surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths at facilities despite a vaccination program in full force. 

The state’s positive COVID cases among nursing home residents increased by 635%  — from 48 to 353 — between March 28 and April 5, the Health Care Association of Michigan reported to local media. COVID-related deaths also increased from 5 to 77 during the same time period. 

“It’s all been a bit surprising to see the numbers, how fast and significant the increase happening,” Melissa Samuel, the association’s president and CEO, told Crain’s Detroit Business.

She added, “We look at everything the state is saying, opening up (businesses and sports). People have fatigue from COVID. I hope people see the implications in this. We are so close. Everything is colliding with the vaccines. We can’t let up.” 

The unexpected increase in cases comes just two weeks after providers realized a 96% decrease in positive cases nationwide. COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state also have experienced a drastic rise between March and April, causing a reduction in elective procedures at Michigan hospitals.

Samuel pinned the increase on community spread. She noted that from Dec. 21, when the federal vaccination program for long-term care started, through early April there were about double the COVID cases in the general population, while the nursing homes saw case numbers decrease from 754 to 353 per week. More than 102,000 vaccines have been given to residents and staff during the timeframe. 

“You can see where the vaccination program started; we began to see a decline in cases during that period and a decline in the general population as well until mid-March. Now, this week, we are hitting numbers we have not seen since late fall,” Samuel said last week.

“It goes back to what is always the case: community spread. Employees come and go into buildings every day,” she later added. 

Samuel stressed the importance of ensuring staff and residents get vaccinated when they can. 

“Thirty percent of residents aren’t vaccinated, and less than 50 percent of staff are,” Samuel said. “We have work to do to increase those (vaccination) numbers.”