COVID cases in Michigan are surging, worrying Chicago area health officials

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The COVID crisis in Michigan is raising concerns among health experts in Chicago.

"I'm very alarmed about what we're seeing in Michigan. First of all, there's not really very much different about the way Michigan is handling COVID and the way that we're handling COVID," said Dr. Emily Landon, Chief Epidemiologist at University of Chicago Medicine.

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The surge in Michigan has pushed the seven day test passivity rate to 16.6%, the highest it's been in a year and up 348% since February. Governor Gretchen Whitmer is asking for more vaccine, and for people to do their part.

"That means not eating indoors, alright, go out to dinner or lunch, but sit outside, or get takeout, it means hopefully, voluntarily curtailing children's sports," Gov. Whitmer said.

Health officials in Michigan believe those activities are driving the spike in new COVID cases, the majority of which are the more contagious UK variant.

Chicago is experiencing its own smaller spike in two zip codes near Lakeview and Lincoln Park. Some Chicagoans who vacation in Michigan are now even more cautious.

"I still don't go to those restaurants, even though the capacity is minimal. I usually do curbside pickup if I do it," said Mercedes Hennessy, who spends summers in Union Pier, Michigan.

RELATED: IL expands vaccine eligibility to residents 16 and up; Chicago not included in expansion

Experts say it's good that Illinois is opening up vaccine eligibility to everyone over 16 as of Monday, and that Chicago will follow in one week, but vaccinations alone won't prevent a possible surge here.

"We are going to need people to change their behavior in order for us to avoid being in the same situation as Michigan," said Dr. Landon. "We need to face facts just because bars and restaurants are open doesn't mean that they are COVID free, or safe."

Landon noted the UK variant is very easily transmitted inside restaurants and bars.

The concerns about Michigan giving Hennessy reason to reconsider her summer plans.

"Coming back up here, if it does get worse. Maybe I would stay back in the city next time I go back," Hennessy said.

Michigan is on Chicago's emergency travel order with the highest daily infection rate of any state in the country.
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