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All Michigan residents ages 16 and up eligible for vaccine

LANSING (AP) — All people ages 16 and older in Michigan became eligible for COVID-19 vaccines on Monday, as the state passed the halfway point in its goal of inoculating 70% of that population by year’s end.

More than 36% of roughly 8.1 million residents had received at least one shot as of Sunday, a share that has tripled in two months. Federal regulators have not authorized vaccinations of children ages 15 and below, though clinical trials are underway.

Michigan continues to confront a surging coronavirus case rate that was the country’s highest over the last two weeks.

In the Lansing area, health officials strongly recommended that middle and high schools suspend in-person learning when instruction resumes next week after spring break. The pause should be combined with rapid COVID-19 testing of students who traveled, said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail.

Detroit’s K-12 district, the biggest in the state, said all students will learn online this week and next week following spring break. The city’s positivity rate was near 20% on Friday.

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, senior public health physician at the state Department of Health and Human Services, attributed the third wave to coronavirus variants, outbreaks associated with youth sports and pandemic fatigue. Rising case numbers initially were driven by the 10-19 age group, she said.

“I don’t think we were releasing transmission in classrooms or even so much on the playing field. What we were seeing is social gatherings in and around youth sports — people getting together for dinner after a win or a sleepover. That’s where transmission seemed to be occurring more,” she said, citing conservations with local case investigators. This is not just one or two stories. This is something we’re hearing over and over again.”

A state requirement that took effect Friday requires teen athletes in contact sports to be tested regularly — once a week if they wear a mask and up to three times weekly if face coverings cannot be worn.

“People didn’t really want to test. A lot of the outbreaks were happening in sports where testing was mandated, in sports like basketball,” Bagdasarian said. “We now know, based on our data, that testing is a fantastic tool to help reduce this type of transmission from occurring. It helps prevent outbreaks from happening.”

A group that opposes sports restrictions, Let Them Play Michigan, and some parents have sued in an attempt to stop the requirement.

Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00.

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