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Map shows where Michigan is seeing the highest COVID spread

Michiganians living in Grand Traverse County are advised to wear masks indoors, based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The county has a "high" level of community transmission, according to the CDC's standards, meaning new cases per 100,000 people, new COVID-19 hospital admissions and the number of hospital beds in the county holding COVID patients have risen there.

Grand Traverse is the only one of Michigan's 83 counties considered to have a high level of transmission as of the most recent data. But it is the first time since March that the state has had a county in the highest level.

Several others, including many of Michigan's most populated counties, are at the "medium" community levels. At medium community levels, people are recommended to test for infections before getting together with people who may be at a higher risk for severe disease and to wear a mask around them. The CDC also recommends that people who are immunocompromised wear a mask or respirator while indoors in public.

The CDC used to use transmission levels to gauge the necessity for masks, but it changed over to the more-lax community levels in February.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, said at the time that the goal of the new system was to protect those at the highest risk for severe illness from COVID and to limit the chance that hospitals became overwhelmed again.

"Importantly, COVID 19 community levels and public health prevention strategies can be dialed up when our communities are experiencing more severe disease and dialed down when things are more stable," said Dr. Greta Massetti, the chief of the CDC's field epidemiology and prevention branch, during a news conference announcing the change.

Many communities are seeing a rise in the number of cases in recent weeks, a change that some attribute to new COVID variants working their way through the U.S. Those variants have hit particularly hard in New York and other parts of New England, for example, where CDC data shows many counties are at high community levels.

Across the country, only 2.45% of counties are reporting high community levels, according to CDC data. But that number has increased in the past week, as has the number of communities with medium community levels, which just makes up just under 10% of the counties across the nation.

The state has 12 counties in the medium-community level category, compared to just five a week ago. Those counties include Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties and several in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula. 

In total, more than half of all Michiganians live in a county with at least a medium transmission level. A week ago, on April 28, that was only true of 18% of the state's population.

Wastewater samples, a way to detect the prevalence of a disease even if not everyone is testing, indicate that current viral loads have stabilized in Metro Detroit, a sign that cases will likely level off in the area soon.

But across the state, COVID cases have been slowly rising. In Michigan, the state reported an average of 2,706 new COVID cases a day on Wednesday, up from 2,069 cases a day a week before. Hospitalizations have been up for four straight weeks.

Twitter: @Hayley__Harding