By Sara Powers

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s record-high COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations could peak in late January or early February before beginning to drop, state health officials said Tuesday while urging residents to help control the crest’s height.

“We have a choice to make. Do we want to work on bringing that peak down, or do we just want to let this omicron surge explode?” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state’s chief medical executive.

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Health leaders — reticent to reinstate restrictions — continued to implore people to voluntarily be vaccinated, get a booster shot if eligible, wear a well-fitting mask in public and avoid large gatherings.

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They should upgrade to an N95 mask or wear two masks that fit well, said Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Those who are sick but not in need of emergency medical care should avoid the emergency room and instead go to an urgent care or their physician and get tested at home or at a test site.

The number of hospital patients with the coronavirus, now roughly 5,000, could rise to around 8,000 under the most pessimistic scenario or increase slightly under the most optimistic model. There may be a “very steep increase” in deaths, Bagdasarian said.

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