There have been five more deaths related to COVID-19 in Ottawa County, the county health department reported Friday.

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That brings the county's pandemic death toll to 288.

With 63 new lab-confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Friday's report, and Thursday's daily new case count revised upward from 59 to 121, the county's total confirmed and probable case count rises to 19,437.

Muskegon County added 38 new confirmed cases and two deaths related to COVID-19 on Friday, the state health department reported. The county's total confirmed case count is now 9,737, with 271 deaths.

The state health department reported 38 new deaths and 3,625 new confirmed cases of the virus in Michigan on Friday. That pushes the state's total confirmed case count to 516,376, with 13,132 deaths related to COVID-19.

Whitmer: Schools should offer in-person classes by March 1

LANSING (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday strongly encouraged all K-12 schools in Michigan to reopen for in-person instruction by March 1, stopping short of requiring it but saying face-to-face classes should at least be an option.

Many schools, including in large districts such as Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, have been fully remote during the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers are among residents who will begin being vaccinated starting Monday as the state transitions to the next phase of its vaccine rollout. Vaccines were first offered to health care workers and nursing home residents.

"The value of in-person learning for our kids is immeasurable," Whitmer said, saying it is safe if schools require masks and adopt infection-prevention protocols.

Whitmer last month lifted her administration's ban on in-person learning in high schools as a spike in COVID-19 infections receded.

In December, at least 800,000 public school students (55 percent) were in districts that planned to offer only virtual instruction, according to a study by Michigan State University. About 453,000, or 31 percent, were in districts with an option of full in-person learning. Others had hybrid or other setups.

Under a 2020 law, Michigan schools that deem it safe to provide face-to-face classes during the pandemic must prioritize the option for K-5 students.

U.S. tops 4,000 daily deaths from coronavirus for 1st time

ORANGE, Calif. (AP) — The U.S. topped 4,000 coronavirus deaths in a single day for the first time, breaking a record set just one day earlier, with several Sun Belt states driving the surge.

The tally from Johns Hopkins University showed the nation had 4,085 deaths Thursday, along with nearly 275,000 new cases of the virus — evidence that the crisis is growing worse after family gatherings and travel over the holidays and the onset of winter, which is forcing people indoors.

Deaths have reached epic proportions. Since just Monday, the United States has recorded 13,500 deaths — more than Pearl Harbor, D-Day, 9/11 and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake combined.

Britain, with one-fifth the population of the U.S., likewise reported on Friday its highest one-day count of deaths yet: 1,325. That brings the country's toll to nearly 80,000, the highest in Europe.

Overall, the scourge has left more than 365,000 dead in the U.S. and caused nearly 22 million confirmed infections. At least 5.9 million Americans have gotten their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The goal is to vaccinate hundreds of millions.

Cases and deaths are soaring in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. Those four states had a combined nearly 1,500 deaths and 80,000 cases on Thursday. Daily records have been set in those states this week as well as in Mississippi and Nevada.

Thursday ranks as one of the deadliest days in U.S. history, with the COVID-19 toll far outstripping the nearly 3,000 killed on 9/11 and exceeding the combined total of nearly 3,900 U.S. lives lost on D-Day and at Pearl Harbor.

Many hospitals in Los Angeles and other hard-hit areas are struggling to keep up and warned they may need to ration lifesaving care. Many nurses are caring for more sick people than typically allowed under the law after the state began issuing waivers to the strict nurse-to-patient ratios.

In Los Angeles County's Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Valencia, nurse Nerissa Black said the place is overwhelmed with patients, likening the situation to New York's at the beginning of the pandemic.

She was assigned six patients but could spend only about 10 minutes with each of them per hour, including the time it takes for her to change her protective gear.

"It's very hard to decide which one should I go see first: the patient who has chest pain or the patient whose oxygen level is dropping," she said.

At St. Joseph Hospital south of Los Angeles, nurses in the COVID-19 ward described being overwhelmed as the deaths mount.

"Just today we had two deaths on this unit. And that's pretty much the norm," said Caroline Brandenburger. "I usually see one to two every shift. Super sad." She added: "They fight every day, and they struggle to breathe every day even with tons of oxygen. And then you just see them die. They just die."

Active-duty military medical personnel were dispatched to a Southern California hospital swamped with COVD-19 patients.

About 20 physician assistants, nurses and respiratory care practitioners from the Army and Air Force were sent to Riverside University Health System-Medical Center in response to a state request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The 439-bed hospital normally averages 350 patients, but that is now up to 450.

The outbreak has taken another turn for the worse in Arizona, with the state now leading the nation with the highest COVID-19 diagnosis rate. Since Dec. 31, one in every 111 Arizonans has been diagnosed with the virus.

More than 132,000 people nationwide are hospitalized with the virus.

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