Yet compared to last winter’s Delta variant surge, Omicron’s spring visit was mild. In Delta’s worst week in January, twenty-one county residents died of Covid-19. In May and early June, the death toll never exceeded three a week.

Washtenaw County Health Department spokesperson Susan Ringler-Cerniglia attributes the spring surge to college students and families returning from spring break trips and “a number of outbreaks in our long-term-care settings.” That’s been a global problem, as more-infectious Omicron variants slip past previously effective defenses.

As the Observer went to press, new weekly infections were less than half their May peak, and “it looks pretty likely that trend will continue,” Ringler-Cerniglia says. It “fits with what we’ve seen in past seasons. Our lowest part of the year has been in the summer,” picking back up in August and September. “We’re expecting generally that we’ll see that pattern again.”

Though Washtenaw sometimes reports more cases per capita than other counties, “the main reason for that, we think, is the higher testing and the better surveillance,” Ringler-Cerniglia says. “We test two to three times as much as some of our neighboring areas.”

Deaths per capita, on the other hand, are lower. Ringler-Cerniglia thinks that’s mainly because of the high vaccination rate locally—69 percent of the non-
college population, and 93 percent of U-M students, have completed the primary series—and “the high level of healthcare that’s available.”

 As always, older people are most at risk. People sixty and older account for most hospitalizations, “and often those folks [have] multiple underlying health conditions.” And “throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen higher impact in our black and brown communities, and where people [have] pre-existing poor health, lower wages, lower income …

“Access to medical care is important, but all these other things are also very important—and combined, probably more so, sometimes—than the medical care.”