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Jury trials to resume in May, ‘Super-spreader’ event details outlined by MCHD officials

MARQUETTE — The Marquette County court system has announced plans to resume jury trials.

The courts received approval from the state court administrative officer and the Marquette County Health Department to move forward with jury trials in May. Each court will address cases individually with involved parties and counsel.

Effective immediately, the courts will institute a hybrid approach to court hearings. While technology still will be used, the local decrease in COVID-19 cases makes it possible to accommodate some in-person proceedings, officials said.

For all case types, parties and attorneys will be permitted to appear in person but are not required to unless directed by the presiding judge or referee. The individual courts will develop rules about which cases require in-person attendance and will specifically address those cases.

Except by specific direction of the presiding judge or referee, no one other than parties or attorneys will be permitted in the courtroom. Witnesses and interested members of the public can access proceedings via Zoom.

Marquette County courts are encouraging electronic options for filing documents or making payments. However, individuals who want to conduct business in person may make an appointment with the clerk of the court assigned to the matter. Contact numbers are: district court, 906-225-8235; circuit court, 906-225-8330; and juvenile/probate court, 906-225-8300.

‘Super-spreader’ event explained

The MCHD has provided an explanation of a “super-spreader” event, which it called a gathering of people that leads to an outbreak of infections that might have arisen from just one infected attendee.

The MCHD identified through contact tracing a possible COVID-19 super-spreader event linked to a Calumet youth hockey tournament at the Calumet Colosseum on Feb. 27-28.

The health department initially identified and traced several COVID-positive players and spectators who were at the event. This number doubled over several days, and currently there are more than 12 individuals with positive tests or with COVID-compatible illnesses without being tested, officials said.

This spread, it noted, is consistent with a super-spreader event. Case identification usually underestimates by a factor of 4 to 5 the real number of cases.

Because of their age, it may not lead to a serious health concern for the players, the MCHD said, but for their parents — and especially the grandparents — it could be “a matter of life or death.” It pointed out that a recent review of Upper Peninsula fatality rates indicates a fatality rate of about 0.5% for individuals age 50 to 64, a 3% rate for people age 65 to 74 and a rate of 12% for people age 75 to 85.

It also mentioned 10-30% of people will suffer “for months,” if not permanently, due to COVID-19 effects.

Because of these facts, Dr. Bob Lorinser, MCHD medical director, decided to follow state and national medical standards by recommending quarantine to contain the outbreak.

The MCHD said super-spreader events are serious and can result in a marked increase in community transmission, and most super-spreaders are unaware they are infected and pass on the virus unknowingly.

According to MCHD, 10-20% of the population spreads 80% of the infections and 70% infect no one, while 10-20% are “average” transmitters. This is true, it stressed, for the COVID-19 pandemic. Identifying super-spreaders is possible only after an event through investigation, and even then is often not possible.

The health department said many people are unaware they are most contagious early in the infection before they become symptomatic.

According to the MCHD, mitigating measures such as wearing face masks, social distancing and good hygiene “markedly decrease” the chances of infection, but it is nearly impossible to be compliant 100% of the time. Other behaviors, it said, increase the risk: close contact; not wearing, inappropriately wearing or intermittently using a mask; indoor versus outdoor activities; sports, especially contact sports such as hockey; and poor ventilation.

The MCHD said it’s common among sporting teams for COVID-19 transmission to occur “off the field” while they are socializing and “letting their guard down.”

Beaumier Center reopens

The Beaumier Upper Peninsula Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University will reopen its gallery to the general public on Monday. Visitation will be limited to six people at one time. Reservations, face masks and proper social distancing are required.

The center’s current exhibition is titled “Conflict and Resolve: Labor in the Upper Peninsula.”

The Beaumier Center’s hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Admission is free. Visits are limited to 30 minutes to allow as many people to see the exhibition as possible. To make a reservation, call 906-227-2549.

Beaumier Center staff will regularly clean door handles and display cases to minimize any contamination. Hand disinfectant is provided at the entrance to the gallery.

The “Conflict and Resolve” exhibition looks at organized labor in the region from the beginnings of the mining and lumbering industry in the mid-19th century to the development of service unions in the 20th century. It features sections on the Knights of Labor, mining safety, various mining and lumbering strikes, corporate paternalism, unionization and community service.

The exhibition includes extensive interpretive text, images, artifacts and media to paint a broad picture of the role labor has played and still plays in the lives of many workers and their communities. It marks the debut of three new custom display cases built by students in NMU’s construction management program.

Aspirus updates

guidelines

Aspirus Health on Friday updated its visitor guidelines at its locations across the U.P. and Wisconsin. The new guidelines ease restrictions to allow one dedicated visitor or support person for the duration of a patient’s visit or stay.

This applies across all patient care settings with the following exceptions:

≤ Compassionate care exceptions can be made to allow additional visitors at the discretion of the care team during end-of-life, labor and delivery, and disability situations.

≤ Pediatric patients have exceptions to allow two primary adult support persons per patient in inpatient, surgical and clinic settings. Patient siblings are not allowed.

≤ For COVID-19 patients, visitors are not permitted but there are exceptions considered for pediatric patients and end-of-life situations.

≤ For assisted living facilities/nursing homes, Aspirus locations will follow the state regulations for visitation. Visitors and families are advised to call the facility directly to discuss situations.

All approved visitors will be required to wear a face mask, practice social distancing and be screened upon entering Aspirus facilities.

The updated guidelines reflect the sustained decrease of COVID-19 activity in the region. Aspirus will continually monitor COVID-19 activity, vaccination rates and the latest guidance from public health officials for any further considerations related to visitors.

Nessel warns of COVID scams

As people across the country continue to seek vaccinations for COVID-19, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is reinforcing several tips offered by the Federal Trade Commission to help residents watch for scams.

“These are unprecedented times, and as health care professionals and authorities work through the best ways to provide COVID vaccines to people who need them, there may be some confusion or misinformation circulating about exactly what to expect,” Nessel said in a statement. “Scammers will try to capitalize on these circumstances and take advantage of people by using a variety of tactics. We must all remain watchful and aware of their tricks, and I encourage people to follow these simple tips to make sure they don’t fall victim to a scam.”

While the Michigan Department of Attorney General has only received a handful of COVID-19 scam complaints, the office wants Michiganders to remain alert about attempts to steal their money or personal information.

The FTC has several tips to help people watch for such scams:

≤ Don’t pay to sign up for the COVID vaccine. Anyone who asks for a payment to put you on a list, make an appointment for you or reserve a spot in line is a scammer.

≤ You can’t pay to get early access to the vaccine, which is a scam.

≤ On Medicare? You don’t have to pay to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Only scammers will ask you to pay.

≤ Ignore sales ads for the vaccine. You can’t buy it anywhere. It’s only available at federal- and state-approved locations.

≤ Legitimate parties will not call, text or email about the vaccine to ask for your Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers.

The attorney general’s office also issued a consumer alert warning about COVID-19 vaccine scams to keep residents aware of the potential threats.

Throughout this month, consumers can follow the department’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for daily consumer protection information.

Consumer complaints can be filed online at the attorney general’s website, or by calling 877-765-8388.

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

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