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4th Marquette County virus case found

Signage for the Nortlite Nursing Center in Marquette is shown. (Courtesy photo)

MARQUETTE — An employee at Norlite Nursing Center in Marquette has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Norlite administrator Wayne R. Johnson on Tuesday sent a letter to residents and family members saying it received confirmation about the employee’s diagnosis, noting that the last date the employee worked was March 25 and that she was in good spirits and had felt well the past two days.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, there have been four cases of COVID-19 reported in Marquette County. The MDHHS reported 1,117 new COVID-19 cases in the state, with a total of 7,615 to date. It reported 75 new deaths for a statewide total of 259 to date.

Johnson stressed that all other COVID-19 tests of residents and staff have so far come back negative.

“Resident safety is our top priority,” Johnson wrote. “We are doing everything we can to ensure we stop the spread of COVID-19 to prevent it from getting into our resident population. We are staying in very close communication with local and state health officials to ensure we are taking all the appropriate steps. We are still not permitting visitors and we are screening all staff and residents multiple times each day.”

He said people are encouraged to call Norlite at 906-228-9252 for updates on the status of loved ones.

“We understand that you are concerned, but it is crucial that we restrict visitation to reduce the spread of the virus,” Johnson said. “We also understand that connecting with family members is incredibly important to our residents.”

Family members, he said, are encouraged to connect with residents through video chat, calling, texting or other forms of social media.

Johnson also said people will be contacted if their loved ones are suspected of or have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

“Please know that we are strictly adhering to all directions from the local and state health department,” he said.

In a Tuesday interview with The Mining Journal, Johnson said the employee showed up for her shift at 2 a.m. Thursday.

“She had a high temperature, and she was actually surprised,” Johnson said.

He said the employee, who lives by herself in Gwinn, was sent home, but later noted she had a sore throat. After being tested for COVID-19, it was discovered Sunday night she was positive.

Johnson said the employee did not know where she could have picked up the coronavirus. He acknowledged a COVID-19 test was justified, even though she was considered low-risk, because she works with a high-risk population.

Johnson said more test results from Norlite are pending.

“At this point we do not know if we’ve dodged a bullet,” he said, stressing that within the next few days, more would be known.

Norlite is located at 701 Homestead St., in Marquette.

The Marquette County Health Department reported the third confirmed positive COVID-19 case in Marquette County earlier Tuesday.

Marquette County Medical Director Dr. Kevin Piggott said additional details such as the age, gender and travel history of the individual will not be released. These details will also not be released for future confirmed cases as case numbers rise within the county, he added.

“We have followed up on our contact tracing just as we will with all the positives as we receive them … The individuals ultimately involved are likewise following through on their appropriate measures,” Piggott said. “We then keep in track with different people along those lines to ensure that people are doing inappropriate isolation, quarantine, monitoring, etc.”

Those wishing to stay up to date on local case numbers can view the cumulative data section on michigan.gov/coronavirus, he said. Case numbers are updated daily at 3 p.m.

The MCHD is also looking into updating its website to reflect county case numbers.

Case numbers are expected to increase locally and as they do, Piggott is concerned people will start to think the social distancing guidelines and “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders are not working.

He emphasized: “People need to take the appropriate measures. There will be a delay between what our social distancing and our stay home (orders) do because of the 14-day incubation period and it’s important that people continue to follow the rules.”

Christie Mastric can be reached at cbleck@miningjournal.net. Trinity Carey can be reached at tcarey@miningjournal.net.

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