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Genesee County, MI— After an eight-week spike in COVID outbreaks, Genesee County numbers are starting to trend downward.
Since April 23, case counts decreased by 41%, according to a report by the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions.
Testing positivity rates also declined from 17.9% to 15.7%, according to the report.
For months, Genesee County was a COVID hotbed, at one point ranking third highest in the nation for cases relative to population.
Local health officials attributed the increase to youth 19 and under who were more likely to engage in team sports and face-to-face learning at school.
Now vaccination rates have increased and fewer people are catching the virus, said Rick Sadler, a geographer and assistant professor at the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University.
While vaccine rollout began slowly due to a nationwide supply shortage, the Biden Administration’s push to purchase more COVID vaccines resulted in increased availability.
At present, 29% of Genesee County’s total population of people over 16 years old are fully vaccinated and 42% have received their first dose, according to the FCHES.
On April 29, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced her “MI Vacc to Normal” plan, which outlines four “vaccination-based milestones” to vaccinate 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and older.
“On our path to vaccinating 70% of Michiganders 16 and up, we can take steps to gradually get back to normal while keeping people safe. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to rise to the challenge and be a part of the solution so we can continue our economic recovery and have the summer we all crave,” Whitmer said.
Overall, with any infectious disease, the goal is to reach what is known as herd immunity. This occurs when the majority of a population is immune to a virus which provides indirect protection to those who are not immune.
At one time, epidemiologists said the nation will reach herd immunity when 70% – 85% of the population is resistant to the coronavirus. But now, experts are saying it is unlikely that the U.S. will ever achieve herd immunity.
However, vaccines play a key role in preventing the spread of the virus and preventing mutations into more dangerous variants, according to the FCHES.
In Genesee County, five variants have, thus far, been confirmed.
- B.1.1.7 or the “U.K. Variant” – This variant is 50% more transmissible and “may reduce vaccine effectiveness,” according to the FCHES.
- B.1.351 or the “South African Variant” – This variant is 50% more transmissible and “may reduce vaccine effectiveness,” according to the FCHES.
- B.1.427 or the “California Variant” – This variant is 20% more transmissible than the original strain.
- B.1.429 also a “California Variant” – This variant is 20% more transmissible than the original strain.
- P1 or the “Brazilian Variant” – This variant may impact “the ability of antibodies to recognize and neutralize the virus,” according to the FCHES. Transmissibility data is not available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials continue to urge residents to play their part by masking up, washing their hands, and getting vaccinated.