Michigan is experiencing a COVID-19 surge comparable to spring 2020 based on current trends, said Sarah Lyon-Callo, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health. Although the number of vaccinated Michiganders is slowly growing, the increase in all COVID-19 metrics is growing much faster.

Top U.S. health officials announced a plan Wednesday to begin offering COVID-19 booster shots to Americans starting Sept. 20, with the scheduling of the additional shot to be based on when a person was fully vaccinated. The new round of jabs will be extended to those who received the two-dose vaccine from either Pfizer or Moderna, and can be taken eight months after an individual’s second dose.

The COVID-19 patients filling Michigan’s hospitals are mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. They hail from throughout the state, from the tip of the Upper Peninsula to the Ohio and Indiana borders; they live in city apartments and old farm houses on land dotted by cornstalks. They are younger than many of the COVID-19 patients in the past — parents with small children, recent graduates, people heading into their first-ever jobs. And, overwhelmingly, they are unvaccinated.

Anna Gustafson writes, “But it is that absence that has been so vital this year; it is that emptiness that has paved the way for life. Do not mistake this silence for a lack of numbers: Those of us who have followed the COVID-19 health orders coming from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) fill our state. And, now, after more than a year of listening to the scientists, wearing our masks and social distancing, life is moving towards something almost jarringly familiar, towards something that is beginning to remind us of the lives we were living some 14 months ago.”

Over the last two years, under the leadership of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Director Robert Gordon, Michigan made it easier to get and keep important benefits. The state now provides additional resources to low-income individuals, seeks to treat residents with respect and has reduced pointless complexity. Many challenges remain and the department’s new leader, Elizabeth Hertel, has an opportunity to accelerate these improvements.