The Rev. Timothy Pelc blesses Easter baskets on Saturday, April 11, 2020, outside St. Ambrose Church in Grosse Pointe Park, Mich. Pelc, wearing church vestments and protective gear against the coronavirus, offered a prayer and sprayed holy water from a squirt gun instead of blessing baskets inside the church during the coronavirus outbreak. (Natalie White via AP)

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan officials reported 111 new deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday, raising the state's pandemic death toll to nearly 1,400, while its confirmed coronavirus cases approached 24,000.

The state Department of Health and Human Services reported that the new deaths from COVID-19 — the respiratory disease caused by the virus — brought the state's death toll to 1,392. But Michigan's 111 new deaths were a significant drop from the 205 deaths officials reported Friday in the state’s highest daily toll since the pandemic began.

Michigan had another 1,210 confirmed coronavirus cases, increasing the statewide total to 23,993, state officials said. Saturday's new cases were a slight dip from the 1,279 new cases reported Friday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also announced plans Saturday to increase the state's daily testing by roughly 40%. The governor said 13 new or expanded COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites would begin operating over next several days around the state, including in Detroit and Flint, to provide residents with greater access to testing.

She said a new commercial laboratory in Grand Rapids that can run upwards of 3,000 tests per day will speed up testing in conjunction with the expanded drive-thru testing. The governor said those steps would increase Michigan’s average daily number of COVID-19 tests by about 40% when fully operational.

“Better access to testing and quicker results are critical to our public health officials who are fighting coronavirus and to our residents who have symptoms of COVID-19 and need answers, treatment and peace of mind. More testing will save lives,” Whitmer said in a news release.

The expanded testing is being made available through a partnership involving the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service, the Michigan Primary Care Association, 11 health centers and NxGen MDX Laboratory. Those being tested must have coronavirus symptoms.

The ongoing pandemic has left one Flint-area woman devastated after the deaths of both her husband and son from COVID-19.

Sandy Brown of Grand Blanc lost her 59-year-old husband, Freddie Lee Brown Jr., and her 20-year-old son, Freddie Lee Brown III, within days of each other in late March, The Detroit News reported.

The younger Freddie, who was a student at Mott Community College and Brown's only child, died March 29 — three days after his father.

“There’s not even a word created to describe my pain. It’s unimaginable,” said Brown, whose son and husband were laid to rest Friday. “In three days, I lost my husband and son to an ugly plague. I watched my son go from completely well and whole and happy to being gone in three days."

State health officials reported Saturday that 433 Michigan residents had recovered from COVID-19 — a big increase from the 56 recovered patients the agency had reported a week ago.

Henry Ford Health System, which has five hospitals in southeastern Michigan, reported Saturday it had 648 COVID-19 patients, compared to 743 on Wednesday. It said it has discharged nearly 1,100 patients in the last 30 days.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.


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