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Health department lists causes of COVID spike

MARQUETTE — Many people are questioning the cause of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the Marquette County Health Department said, but this is expected during an epidemic once community transmission begins.

In a news release issued on Friday, it listed possible factors:

≤ gatherings and travel associated with Labor Day;

≤ increased tourism in the area as a result of restrictions elsewhere and successful travel-related advertising campaigns;

≤ increased social activity of citizens due to loosening restrictions and pandemic fatigue;

≤ return-to-school and workplace environments;

≤ a recent prison-related outbreak, which transmitted to employees who live within the community; and

≤ reduced diligence in adhering to COVID-19 mitigation strategies, again due to pandemic fatigue, complacency and politicization of the epidemic response.

The MCHD said these trends may be expected during the course of an epidemic unless measures are taken to mitigate the transmission of the coronavirus.

As of Friday, the state of Michigan said Marquette County had 794 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Delta County had 974, while Houghton County had 745.

It said early case counts and rates in Marquette County and throughout the Upper Peninsula were relatively low, and based upon virus genetic testing conducted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the overwhelming majority of U.P. cases in the early phases of the crisis were isolated cases primarily introduced from outside the U.P.

With recent increases in cases along the Michigan-Wisconsin border and with increases in fall tourism and local social activity, Marquette County and the U.P. are experiencing community transmission, meaning the cases now are being transmitted from person to person within the community and no longer are limited to mostly imported and isolated cases.

The MCHD urges people adhere to social distancing, mask-use protocols and hygienic practices intended to mitigate coronavirus transmission.

Testing upgraded

Helen Newberry Joy Hospital said that as COVID-19 activity has increased in its area, so has the necessity for testing.

The hospital announced on Friday that the testing tent on its grounds has been taken down, and will be replaced with a larger and sturdier structure to meet the community’s need for testing as winter weather arrives.

The construction, it noted, is not interrupting its ability to perform COVID-19 testing.

Anyone who wants to be tested is urged to call 906-293-9288 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Most testing, the hospital said, is sent out to regional labs, and the result time varies depending on many factors. It currently is seeing results come back in two to three days, but five to six days is not unusual.

“While a positive COVID-19 test result doesn’t always lead to a need for treatment, it is an important first step in being able to contain the spread in our community,” said HNJH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Beaulieu.

LMAS reports alarming numbers

The Luce-Mackinac-Alger-Schoolcraft District Health Department reported that on Thursday, it had 358 cases of COVID-19, up 167% over the 134 cases it had on Oct. 1.

Over the last two weeks, there have also been two COVID-related deaths — the first in Alger County, an older male, and a second in Schoolcraft County, an older female with underlying health conditions.

From Oct. 1 through Thursday, Mackinac County cases increased from 69 to 147. Alger County cases increased from 21 to 103 cases, Schoolcraft cases increased from 31 to 60 and Luce County cases increased from 13 to 47.

LMAS said that for perspective, from March to July 1, the four counties had only 20 total cases. The reasons for the increases are mixed, it said. Some cases are tied to an event or large gathering while others are more associated with community spread with fewer people following the basic guidelines of wearing masks, avoiding large crowds and staying home when sick.

The health department urges people that in the midst of “COVID fatigue,” people wear a clean cloth face covering whenever they are in public, wash their hands, stay home if they do not feel well, avoid large gatherings and answer the phone if the health department contacts them.

NMU COVID numbers up

The most recent cumulative numbers on Northern Michigan University’s Safe on Campus dashboard, found at https://nmu.edu/safe-on-campus/, show that between July 27 and Friday afternoon, there have been 90 cumulative COVID-19 positive cases. These include include 33 on-campus students, 49 off-campus students and eight employees.

There are 17 active positive cases — three on-campus students, 12 off-campus students and two employees.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.

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