A grim milestone -- Michigan surpasses 30,000 COVID deaths

Michigan surpasses 30,000 COVID deaths
Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 6:55 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Michigan passed a tragic milestone in the COVID pandemic.

Health officials said the state has surpassed 30,000 deaths since the pandemic began nearly two years ago.

“We’ve hit many milestones along the way. I mean we’ve been counting milestones -- 500,000 deaths in the country and it continues and continues and its really sad,” said Ingham County health officer Linda Vail.

On Wednesday, the state added 327 deaths, pushing Michigan past 30,000 deaths. With every milestone past, more lives are lost and more families devastated.

“Until you’ve had somebody that passed away from this illness, I think we do just look at these as numbers and we really don’t understand the effects of what it can do,” said DeWitt Township police chief Mike Gute.

For Gute -- and the entire police department of DeWitt Township -- those numbers are more than numbers. They represent friends and loved ones.

Police sergeant Bill Darnell lost his life to COVID in 2020. He was survived by his wife and three children. The impact of his death still impacts the community.

Read: DeWitt Township police officer dies of COVID

“He was an extremely nice man, honest, compassionate -- somebody that could just walk up to you and put a smile on your face because he was always smiling,” Gute said. “It devastated this department when COVID ran through here a year and three months ago, but on top of that it devastated a family. A family with young kids.”

Like Darnell, firefighter James Swindlehurst became a first responder to give back to his community. He lost his life to COVID on Christmas Eve.

Read: DeWitt Township first responder dies of COVID caught on the job

The DeWitt community still struggles to make sense of their deaths.

However, the number of COVID deaths are slowing down and health officials said they’re hopeful Michigan has reached a turning point.

“We’re coming down steeply off of the omicron surge,” Vail said. “My hope is that that we come down off the omicron surge and we won’t hit yet another as we did last March and April.”

Related: DeWitt community mourns death of School Board President

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