Genesee County, MI— COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in Genesee County and the United States.

According to a recent report by the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions, Genesee County’s case rate is 5.8%, higher than Michigan’s rate of 4%. 

“They’ve been going up for weeks,” said Debra Furr-Holden, director of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions and associate dean for Public Health Integration at Michigan State University. 

Courtesy of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions

Furr-Holden said there are likely two factors contributing to the increase health officials are currently seeing.  

“The first is that (the state) reopened February first and the following week, we started to see an increase in cases…And then the second thing is, I think, we’re seeing more of the variants that are spread more easily showing up.  Michigan has a larger than trivial proportion of variant cases in the U.S., and these variants are more contagious,” she said, adding that the state is tracking variant data, but information is not yet available. 

The report also noted that data on race, which includes COVID-19 cases but especially vaccinations, is “lagging.” 

“That’s a fancy way of saying they’re just simply not doing a good job of collecting it,” Furr-Holden said. 

According to the report, race and ethnicity data is missing for: 

  • 18% of COVID cases in Michigan
  • 36% of COVID cases in Genesee County 
  • 33% of all vaccines administered in Michigan

Persistent missing data is “unacceptable” and “obstructs an equitable response to a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting communities of color,” the report stated. 

Furr-Holden said that data isn’t collected in real time and must be added retroactively. 

“Everybody is overburdened. Not collecting it on the front end is creating burden on the back end, and people are simply not able to keep pace,” she said. 

Part of the issue may be a shift in focus from testing to distributing vaccinations, Furr-Holden said. 

“We’re doing an even worse job of collecting race and ethnicity data with COVID vaccinations, which is an unacceptable omission because we’ve got no missing data age category, and less than 1/10 of 1% missing data on gender. So, they have the capacity to collect the demographic data, they just aren’t collecting race data.” 

Since December 2020, 118,210 vaccines have been administered in Genesee County and approximately 10% of residents are fully vaccinated. 

On March 24, a regional vaccination center will open in Detroit at Ford Field. It will provide 6,000 vaccinations daily to eligible individuals. Those interested can register online here

A list of where to get the vaccine in Flint and Genesee County can be found here.

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...