Michigan's coronavirus death toll topped 2,000 on Thursday, a milestone that also brought more signs that infections are flattening as Henry Ford Health System officials reported a "plateau" in COVID-19 patients.
State health officials reported 172 new deaths in a 24-hour period that ended at 10 a.m. Thursday, the second most COVID-19 deaths reported in one day since the pandemic hit Michigan five weeks ago.
However, 65 of the newly reported deaths were from a weekly review of death certificates that were matched with individuals who tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The total death count stands at 2,093.
The number of new positive cases of the novel coronavirus rose by 1,204, bringing the total number of infections in Michigan to 29,263, state data shows. The newly confirmed cases of since Wednesday is higher than the rolling seven-day average of 1,108, an analysis by Modern Healthcare's sister publication Crain's Detroit Business shows.
Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System reported 617 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 across all of its hospitals, the lowest number since April 1, said Dr. Betty Chu, associate chief clinical officer and chief quality officer.
"We're encouraged by the trend and we're starting to regain a little bit of hospital capacity," Chu said in a video conference call with reporters. "However, it's certainly not a time to get complacent and we do want to stress that everyone continue to follow Gov. Whitmer's stay-at-home directive."
Chu and Dr. Steven Kalkanis, CEO of the Henry Ford Medical Group, characterized the decline in hospitalizations as a "plateau phase" of the pandemic in Southeast Michigan.
"It does not mean we're out of the woods ... or there's a big drop-off in the number of cases," said Kalkanis, senior vice president and chief academic officer at Henry Ford. "We're incredibly encouraged by the fact that we continue to discharge more patients than admit."
The declining rates of COVID-19 patients are reflected at the field hospital the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built inside TCF Center on Detroit's riverfront. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Thursday that there were just 16 patients being treated inside the 970-bed facility for individuals who do not require ICU treatment or a ventilator for breathing.
"They thought they'd be at 250 by the end of the first week," Duggan said Thursday during his daily news briefing.
Crain's Detroit Business reporter Annalise Frank contributed to this report, which first appeared in our sister publication.