Vaccinated? Michigan Doesn’t Widely Report the First Question Asked After a COVID-19 Death

Joseph Serwach

When someone dies of COVID, everyone asks, ‘Were they vaccinated?’ Why states should add that key detail to their death tallies
Michigan isn't yet reporting the first question asked after a COVID-19 death: Were they vaccinated?Image by Fernando Zhiminaicela from Pixabay.

When a local hero died of COVID-19 on July 19  —  17 months after the pandemic reached America —  everyone asked: was he vaccinated?

And yet, Michigan health officials continue to report the same data line items they reported a year ago plus the same “vaccine count” records they’ve shared since widespread vaccinations began in December 2020.

Imagine if health officials instead reported: The number of COVID-19 deaths/cases while simultaneously reporting the percentage of those cases/deaths that were vaccinated.

Consider these recent reports from other states:

  • The state of Texas reported nearly 9,000 COVID deaths between February and July 2021: 8,787 died due to COVID-19, while just 43 of those deaths involved people who were fully vaccinated. The result? 99.5 percent of the COVID deaths were people who weren’t yet vaccinated.
  • Across the nation, health officials are calling the current deaths “the pandemic of the unvaccinated,” with 99 percent of recent deaths occurring among the unvaccinated, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
  • “This is a pandemic overwhelmingly and disproportionately of those that have not been vaccinated,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom added.
  • Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, said unvaccinated people accounted for over 97 percent of hospitalizations.

Show the difference? Real numbers could encourage more people

Imagine someone close to you getting COVID-19. Would you be more likely to get vaccinated if you knew nearly all current cases are from people who declined to get their COVID shots?

Would you consider that a sign that it’s time to get your shot? Imagine hearing daily news reports saying, “100 people died today, 95 were unvaccinated.” Imagine the drip-drop effect of hearing such reporting day after day.

Personal stories move people. When people know anyone who died, they inevitably want to know what caused their death, and as soon as you mention COVID-19, they want to know whether they were vaccinated.

Josef Stalin reportedly explained this effect of great concern over the story of one death and far less interest in bigger totals by saying, “The death of one man: that is a catastrophe. One hundred thousand deaths: that is a statistic!”

Michigan’s COVID death data isn’t as up to date as it could be

Another hurdle for Michigan? Its data isn’t as up-to-date as it could be. The Orchard Lake community was stunned to learn former Vice-Chancellor Tony Koterna died July 19 from COVID-19 complications.

The next day, the state reported 14 additional deaths “over the past four days, all from a vital records review,” As they have for months, Michigan health officials continue to add to the same tallies in the same way:

  • The latest report, issued Friday, had Michigan adding 2,250 confirmed cases over the past three days, or about 750 per day, bringing the total of confirmed cases to 903,933 since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • The state added another 19 deaths, including 10 from a review of previous death records. The current total of Michigan deaths is now 19,921.
  • The state’s “positivity rate” for the virus inched up to 5.5 percent from 1 percent on June 20. Positivity is a measure of “community spread.” State officials hope to keep the rate below 3 percent.
  • Also, on Friday, the state reported 407 patients hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID, less than a 10th of where it was in April but about 25 percent higher than it was in early July.
  • Officials warned the Delta variant of the virus is more transmissible than earlier waves. But again, no data on how many cases involve vaccinated or unvaccinated people.

Michigan officials continue to blame each other for missing vaccination goals

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wanted 70 percent of the state vaccinated by now, even pushing a lottery with massive cash prizes for the vaccinated. Still, so far, just 63 percent have been vaccinated.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, a Democrat, said in a radio interview, “Michigan Republicans have shown themselves not willing or not interested in doing things to encourage people to get vaccinated at a high level.”

Michigan ranks near the bottom of the 50 states for increases in vaccine coverage during July, according to the analysis of federal records. However, nationally, the state is in the middle of the 50 states.

The lotteries and ads and political jabs are interesting. Still, a single statistic could help move the vaccination needle: Reporting the number of deaths and the percentage who were or weren’t vaccinated.

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