Michigan nears 100K coronavirus cases. Maps, graphics show pandemic’s path.

testing positive

Michigan is on the cusp of an unwanted milestone in the coronavirus pandemic, recording nearly 100,000 cases in the virus that has sickened tens of millions across the globe and caused over 830,000 deaths.

As of Thursday, Michigan had 99,958 cases, a staggering number for a virus first confirmed in the state on March 10. Since then, it has killed more than 6,400 residents and left more than 1 million jobless as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shut businesses and schools in an effort to control the virus. 

In the past weeks, the number of daily cases has fallen dramatically, after Whitmer restricted movement of people, limited the size of gatherings and ordered masks in public.

Related stories:

Here’s a brief, data-based review of how the pandemic has played out since March in Michigan.

Where did it start, where did it go

When the virus first exploded, it was rooted in southeast Michigan for reasons that aren’t known (although the region has a large international airport and is home to about half the state’s residents). In the first few weeks in March, 80 percent of the state’s cases were in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, with Detroit being a big enough hot spot that it attracted concern from the White House

But since then, and over weeks and months, the virus spread, expanding to every corner of the state, from Monroe near the Ohio border to Copper Harbor in the far northwestern Upper Peninsula.

Virus’ spread over time

This map shows how coronavirus infections swept across the state, with darker colors representing higher rates of infection in two-week increments beginning in mid-March. The case counts were adjusted for population.


Source: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

West Michigan saw its highest case counts in July, as metro Detroit had a respite. And now, some of the most dense cases are in the remote western Upper Peninsula, in Menominee County.

Though small in population, Menominee has averaged six new cases a day, or 26 for each 100,000 people, by far the highest current rate in the state. In comparison, Macomb County, which had the most cases on Wednesday (138), has had a daily average of 13.5 cases for every 100,000 people.

Who is getting the virus

Across Michigan, people of color and older residents have borne the brunt of the virus. 

African Americans, who comprise 14 percent of the state population, make up nearly 40 percent of deaths and have a death rate — deaths per 1 million — that at 1,650 is nearly four times higher than it is for white residents (423 per million). (Data for other groups weren't available.)

The age gap revealed how deadly COVID-19 remains for the elderly: 16 percent of all coronavirus cases have hit those 70 or older but that age group makes up 70 percent of all deaths.

And the toll was especially harsh in nursing homes, where a third of all deaths, just over 2,100, have occurred among residents, and 21 nursing home employees have died. 

Younger residents have been contracting the virus lately. Through June 5, about 4 percent of all infections were among those under 20 years old. 

From then until this week, they have made up over 17 percent of new infections and they are the fastest rising age group contracting coronavirus in the state, even though they are the least likely to suffer serious complications.

Cases and deaths

By almost any measure, Michigan has rebounded from an awful — and deadly — beginning of the pandemic.

When probable cases are added to confirmed ones, Michigan has nearly 6,700 deaths, or 67 for every 100,000 people, a rate that is 10th highest in the nation. But it had been as high as fourth until waves of the virus swept through the south and southwest.

Michigan, which ranks 10th among states in overall population, ranks 18th in total coronavirus cases. It has been passed by several states, including Ohio, that for several weeks had far fewer cases than Michigan.

By population, Michigan now ranks 37th in terms of cases per 100,000 people.


Early on, Michigan struggled to test enough people and the few tests available were limited to those with symptoms and who had been in contact with a known coronavirus case. 

Because of that, nearly 40 percent of tests were positive in the early weeks of the pandemic. A steady increase in testing capacity now has the state testing as many as 400 people per day per 100,000 — far surpassing the one-time goal of 150 tests.

That’s important, health experts say, because it allows public health officials to quickly identify cases and recommend quarantine for the infected. That works even better, they say, when the positive test rate is below 5 percent or, the Harvard Global Health Initiative suggests, even 3 percent.

By those standards, Michigan has done well: Over the past week 3.1 percent of tests are positive and on Wednesday just 2.4 percent of over 41,000 tests were positive.


Nationwide, 6.1 percent of cases are coming back positive, according to the Washington Post.

That includes places like Mississippi (22 percent positive in the last seven days), South Carolina (22 percent) and Iowa (16 percent). In states including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and New Hampshire, fewer than 1 percent of tests are positive.


At the beginning of the pandemic, public officials across the country feared coronavirus patients would overwhelm hospitals.

And in Michigan, metro Detroit hospitals were crushed by the onslaught of patients, with nearly 4,000 people in Michigan hospitals in early April. It was one of the reasons for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order and the talk of “flattening the curve” so those who did get sick could also get care.


It worked. Hospital admissions for COVID-19 plummeted steadily from April to around 400 in late June. It’s ticked up since but has largely hovered at 650 confirmed and suspected cases since.

According to the Washington Post, Michigan has seven people hospitalized for every 100,000 in the state, putting it in the bottom half of states and well below the 29 people in Mississippi, 26 in Nevada and 22 in Alabama for every 100,000 people.

New tool for next phase

As the pandemic continues to upend the lives of almost everyone in the state, and as residents are asking questions about whether face-to-face schooling, or a trip to the mall, is safe, Bridge Michigan offers a new tool to see how cases and testing are trending in every county.

The graphic shows the daily case count, as reported to the state, for every county, as well as seven-day average and cases per 100,000 and how that rate has changed from the previous week.

It also allows a glimpse at testing for each county (and Detroit): What are the positive test rates? Are they rising? Is there enough testing to ensure safety? It will be added to the Bridge Michigan dashboard as well.


Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


George Hagenauer
Fri, 08/28/2020 - 9:47am

This is really good thank you- Does the Wayne County total include Detroit? Now to go check the Washtenaw website and see if my two zips still have half the cases. Also you may want to look into sickle cell as a potential risk factor as I don't think a lot has been written about it but it has been added to the high risk categories and may be another factor in the high number of Covid deaths among African Americans.

K Manrique
Fri, 08/28/2020 - 9:54am

Thank you for such an incredible job of making sense of this terrible pandemic & how it is hitting our state.

Fri, 08/28/2020 - 11:05am

Should be noted what our testing rates were on the eve of the initial "loosening" of the Michigan lock-down. Between May 25 and May 31, we had a high of 6.4 positive and a low of 3.4 positive. Since the relaxing of restrictions on June 1, we have not been anywhere close to 6.4 percent positive.

Even with protests, even with Harpers, even with back to school.

So if that range of 3.4 to 6.4 was good enough for reopening, why the heightened expectations now?

Was that not science and data back on June 1?

Jake K
Fri, 08/28/2020 - 11:21am

I tried to be tested for travel purposes and was denied by several entities because I was asymptotic. My health care provider refused to authorize a test unless I first attended an in-face appointment with my physician. I could have gone to my local grocery store and conducted a nasal swab in public...but I declined...plus the wait time for results was 6 to 8 days. This entire scenario is confusing at best, unless the testing process and anticipated results are bring orchestrated for an underlying purpose. I would definitely assume our percentage of positive tests would be high if only symptomatic people are being tested.

Matt G
Sat, 08/29/2020 - 10:04am

They're following the new CDC guidelines that say only symptomatic people should be tested, so if anyone is doing any orchestrating it's at the federal level.

I keep remembering some guy in a really important federal position has been saying all along that he likes the numbers to appear low.

Jack Matthias
Fri, 08/28/2020 - 12:04pm

A number of us in Northeastern Michigan believe we had been exposed to a COVID - 19 outbreak in January and February. Thought it was extremely bad flu season at the time and some of it was. All schools were closed - some people were unusually sick for an extended period of time and slow to recover. Tests indicated for some it was not one of the two primary flu strains, but something unknown.
We think we may have some significant levels of immunity. Antibodies do decline and there was concern that immunity would be lost. But there is a T-cell immunity that remains and exists for people who have had exposure to other Corona viruses - including the common cold. Those with a strong immune system are among those who repell COVID-19 with no symptoms or mild symptoms.
Outside of a serious nursing home outbreak in Alpena - we have had very few cases in a 5 county region. In my county - only 11 known cases since March and no deaths. We certainly had exposure since spring as many people relocated (or vacationed) to their cottages, hunting camps, campgrounds, family and friends, resorts and motels. There have been potential spreader events like weddings and reunions, and summer sporting team competitions.
Have we approach some sort of "herd Immunity?" Would be nice if someone did some research. We are going back to school, and it is possible that a high percentage of kids were exposed last winter if it was COVID - 19. Will be interesting to see what happens.

Fri, 08/28/2020 - 1:21pm

Herd immunity requires a SIGNIFICANT portion of the population to be immune from the virus. Studies looking at transmission rates and spread estimate herd immunity for COVID-19 could be anywhere between 50 and 83% of the population. However, since we still don't know everything about this virus, scientists aren't sure if or at what rate reinfection can occur. Meaning just because you got it once, doesn't mean you can't get it again.

Also, there have been a lot of claims about people getting sick with COVID prior to the major outbreak events but none of those stories are backed by any evidence.

Fri, 08/28/2020 - 9:23pm

"Have we approach some sort of 'herd Immunity?'" NO, you haven't. 99% of Americans think the same way you do, but the cases keep going up.

Fri, 08/28/2020 - 5:32pm

So in other words Wilkinson, by shutting down businesses and schools and following the advice of state health specialists, GOVERNOR WHITMER was able to accomplish what our irresponsible PRESIDENT did not. And AMERICA leads the world in Covid19 INFECTION and DEATHS. NOT GREAT.

Sat, 08/29/2020 - 9:40am

The reference to Menominee County is geographically misleading. The County's location is neither remote, nor in the western U.P. It is in the southern central U.P. on the Wisconsin border. The proximity to Wisconsin is undoubtedly the source of many of the infections.

Sat, 08/29/2020 - 2:09pm

Stop with this idea that 100,000 cases of a bit s is staggering. By January 2020, we had 300,000 flu like cases - and your staff made no mention of that

Deaths are extremely low, and flat. Hospitalizations, too

The epidemic is over - start reporting accordingly.

Gloria Woods
Wed, 01/06/2021 - 9:44am

You poor thing.