LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan has passed the grim milestone of 20,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, with a top state health official warning that people must continue taking precautions.

State health officials reported Friday that Michigan had totaled 20,011 confirmed deaths since recording its first one in March 2020.

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“We’ve seen real devastation and tragedy as a result of COVID-19, and it remains as important now as it (was) a year ago to mitigate the transmission of this virus,” said Elizabeth Hertel, director of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services. “Because it is deadly.”

Health officials are preparing for a possible new wave of infections caused by the highly transmissible delta variant that is sweeping the country. On Friday, Michigan identified delta variant infections in more than 50 counties and the city of Detroit.

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Michigan’s COVID-19 deaths have been highest among the elderly and African Americans.

Those 70 years and older have accounted for 69% of those deaths. Confirmed deaths among African Americans have accounted for about 22% of deaths, while Blacks comprise about 14% of the state’s population.

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