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Michigan nears 1 million COVID cases. These numbers define the pandemic.

covid map
COVID-19 has killed nearly 21,000 people in Michigan and infected 1 in 10 residents since the first case was confirmed in March 2020.

Sept. 22: COVID tally surpasses 1 million

On a frantic evening in early March 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer went on TV and announced Michigan’s first confirmed coronavirus case, touching off the state’s ongoing battle with the virus.

Now, more than 15 months later, the pandemic appears to be winding down, with daily cases falling below 100 late last week after averaging more than 1,000 a month ago.


But an unfortunate milestone is approaching: Michigan will likely record 1 million cases late week or early next month. The state now has more than 999,100 confirmed and probable cases.

Countless words have been written about the human, economic, psychological and educational toll of the pandemic — all of which likely will take years to unravel.

Today, Bridge Michigan outlines the toll in bare numbers, beginning with this:


1 in 10 residents

That’s how many of Michigan’s 10 million residents have had the virus — which is likely an undecount because of a lack of testing in the earliest days in the pandemic.

Nearly 21,000 deaths

Or about the same as the total population of the city of Marquette.

The virus has proven especially lethal since the earliest days of the pandemic, when Detroit was particularly hard hit.

Nearly 12 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in Michigan have been Detroiters despite the city only making up 6 percent of the state population.


“It seemed like something happening in another place,” said Dr. Jim Terrian, a long-time public health official working for several Upper Peninsula counties who lives in Newberry.

The virus eventually spread from southeast Michigan, but it took a while. Terrain’s home county of Luce in the eastern Upper Peninsula had its first case March 20, 2020, but didn’t have a second for nearly two more months.

“I thought it would be quite remarkable if we’d get to 100,000 cases,” Terrain told Bridge Michigan. What about 1 million? “I can’t believe it.”

1 in 4 out of work

At the worst part of the pandemic, in April 2020, nearly 24 percent of Michigan workers were unemployed because of business closures from social distancing orders. That was far higher than the national rate of 15 percent at the time.

A staggering third of all Michigan workers sought jobless benefits in the first few months of the pandemic.


Since then, many jobs have returned and Michigan’s jobless rate is 5 percent, nearly a full percentage point better than the national rate.

But the damage was done.

3 in 10 businesses likely will close

That’s according to a recent estimate from the mall Business Association of Michigan. An estimated one in eight restaurants closed, hurt by months-long closures and later limits on capacity that were just lifted this last week.

The job losses and the business closures scared state and municipal leaders who feared huge deficits as sales and income taxes fell.



At one point, Michigan budget officials estimated the state would have a $6 billion deficit as it spent millions to fight the pandemic.

But the federal government poured billions into the states, through enhanced jobless benefits, stimulus checks and ultimately billions more in direct aid to states, counties and municipalities.

Now, Michigan legislators and Whitmer are arguing about how to spend a surplus in money.

Those decisions are coming as the number of cases fall to levels not recorded since early March 2020.

On Friday, just 40 confirmed cases were reported. For Terrian, the public health official in Newberry, that number is almost as unbelievable as 1 million.

“It’s wonderful, just wonderful,” he said.

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