We’re in a third pandemic wave, and vaccine distribution in Michigan feels broken.

I’ve been watching with worry as Michigan’s COVID-19 cases skyrocket into what some don’t want to admit is true — that we’re in a third wave of the pandemic.

Our cases per day in Metro Detroit are higher than when all this started a year ago and rising.

Graphic via COVIDACTNOW – captured on March 20, 2021

It’s due to a number of reasons. Between variants that spread more easily, to pandemic fatigue, to 75% of Michiganders with COVID-19 symptoms not quarantining, we had more than 3,700 new cases Friday.

Hospitalizations are up 45% from their February lows. Up 29% in less than a week.

Hopefully, deaths do not follow. But I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

As Mike Wilkinson over at Bridge said in a tweet, “I’m surprised there’s even a question if there’s a surge.”

We also need to reckon with the idea that our vaccination system isn’t working so great.

As a state, depending on the day, Michigan is 34th in the nation for percentage vaccinated according to COVIDACTNOW.

However, the well-off and connected, as is the long American tradition, are getting them comparatively easily. Maybe not through paying for them, but by knowing the right people and having the right network.

Oakland County has a comparatively high vaccination rate, but anecdotally, my 61-year old aunt with multiple high risk conditions still can’t get an appointment in Oakland County and is on three lists.

Yet, I have a number of loosely-qualifying and under-40 friends that already have the shot. Some who got it very early on.

As this Slate piece points out, this is an issue across the country.

It turns out that you can scroll through privilege on Instagram now.

To be fair, there’s word of a mass vaccination site opening at United Wholesale Mortgage in Pontiac in April. It will be able to handle somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 people a day. It’ll be open 1-3 times per week.

Macomb County’s positive test rate is back north of 10 percent again, which throughout this pandemic we’ve been told is an out-of-control level.

There have been issues in the city of Detroit of low vaccine uptake, even though they’re communicating clearly about how and where to get them. Here’s a story about that.

We hear about all these people going through TCF Center. But the percentage vaccinated numbers are far lower than the rest of the state. There needs to be more bandwidth, and fast.

Wayne County’s strategy seems to be “Leave it to Meijer” up to now and it can be frustrating. There are some cities beginning to do individual events, but they’re limited.

From those Wayne County podcast listeners, I learned that if you’re willing to drive to Ohio, you can get an appointment in a few days no matter what your risk level.

I can verify people who have not only made appointments but got vaccinated in Toledo or another nearby Ohio city. One listener got an appointment on Friday for next week.

Here’s the link if you want to. It’s open to everyone 40 and older and Ohio apparently doesn’t care if you’re in-state or not.

It works far better than the Meijer system, which, talking to listeners and with my own experience, seems like a giant box of “welp, maybe I’ll get a vaccine one day.”

There are also people picking up random appointments and vaccines in Republican areas of Michigan because the vaccination rates are so low — so there are more shots to get a hold of.

This rollout is undoubtedly hard, but the urgency of this third wave and more transmissible variants means we need to act quickly.

Via COVIDACTNOW – Screenshot March 20, 2021

I felt more comfortable when we were managing cases and it seemed like a sincere effort to get seniors vaccinated first and trust the process. 400 cases a day? Sucks. But we can get there.

Now, as we’re in striking distance of 4,000 cases a day? With the seven-day average of cases higher than when this whole thing started? Different story.

Maybe we should stop pretending that there’s some sort of pecking order after we do an immediate look at how many seniors we really have waiting in lines and help them immediately. Not May 1st nationally; or April 5th here in Michigan.

I know some health experts will “tut tut” me, but we’re dealing with people and real life. I think a number of my fellow state citizens – on both sides of the aisle – have let out a collective “eff it” and went on with their lives. Travel is resuming. The 50% capacity at bars and restaurants in many areas is a joke. In my politically deep-blue part of town was barely a mask to be seen at the gas station today. That wasn’t the case a month ago.

A couple of my left-as-could-be friends — who by all appearances have been excellent up to now about masking and distancing and such — are now saying, “We can’t stay in our house forever.” People are breaking.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun on Friday.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in a press briefing Friday morning that vaccinations are “like a locomotive” and take time to get up to speed.

I believe the new urgency of this situation demands that Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Health Department find a way to throw more coal in the engine than planned and finish strong.

It’s clear Whitmer has connections with the Biden administration. We need Michigan to be an even higher priority for vaccine distribution and maybe we need to figure out a quicker way to get it to people. Once administered, remember that it takes weeks for the vaccines to be fully effective. So there’s no time to waste.

I don’t want to force a vaccine on somebody. We should accept that vaccine hesitancy exists and plan accordingly. But after millions of shots and some months here, when I can get some sweet vaccine juice I’m going to do it.

Maybe we need to just get shots out to those who want it, and then circle back to those who aren’t sure later. Get it in the hands of primary care doctors who have trusted relationships with their patients, for instance.

For now, I’ll gladly take someone else’s shot who, for whatever reason, has decided they want to roll the dice with the ‘Rona.

I’ve lost too many friends to this pandemic to play that game, and I don’t want to lose more.

I could be wrong, but there are a lot of Michiganders who know COVID-19 is real. We understand the risk. But we also are tired of staring out the window and feeling like we can’t do anything about it for ourselves or our loved ones.

You can follow the Daily Detroit podcast free on Apple Podcasts or wherever you download shows.

Apple logoGoogle logoSpotify logoAmazon logoPocketcasts logoStitcher logoOvercast logoIheartradio logoRss logo

Co-Host/Co-Founder - Has broadcast TV, sports, social media marketing and corporate communications experience over a career spanning two decades. Credits include WDIV, international networks, Detroit Public Television, and more. Also handled social engagement for the Detroit Regional News Hub, working as a concierge for over 1,000 journalists over five years from around the globe telling the city and region’s story.

Further reading

Where’s Our Rosa Parks Statue?

A couple of weeks ago there was news out of Montgomery, Alabama that they unveiled a new statue of none other than civil rights activist and icon...

Subscribe