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Lorinser staying with health department

MARQUETTE — Dr. Bob Lorinser will continue as medical director for the Marquette County Health Department.

Lorinser, who took over the reins as director in November following the resignation of Dr. Kevin Piggott, earlier this year had indicated he was resigning from the position.

However, in a Monday email to The Mining Journal, Lorinser said he plans to serve as director for “hopefully a long time.”

As of Sunday, though, he stepped down as medical director for the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department and Public Health, Delta & Menominee Counties.

What drove his decision to stay with the MCHD?

“Community service, the thought I can contribute and the desire to take an active medical director leadership role,” Lorinser said.

However, he suspects the challenges the MCHD faces during the COVID-19 pandemic will fluctuate.

“It is fluid, isn’t it?” Lorinser said. “The current challenge is COVID vaccine hesitancy despite the rising cases and hospitalizations.”

In a recent news release, he stressed that current COVID-19 vaccines so far have been effective against virus variants, which are present in Marquette County.

Ishpeming schools in session

Ishpeming Public Schools is continuing face-to-face learning following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Friday recommendation that high schools pause in-person learning, all youth sports and indoor restaurant dining amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in Michigan.

IPS Superintendent Carrie Meyer issued a letter to parents that day.

“After several discussions with the Ishpeming Public School District Board of Education, administration and other local superintendents, we have agreed to continue to remain in session for as long as safely possible.

“For the majority of the 2020-21 school year we were provided with local control, and I believe we all have made sound decisions. The current number of cases we are experiencing are significantly lower than those in November. We are all confident that we can continue to do what we have been doing so that our students and staff may remain safely in session as much as possible.”

Meyer indicated she also was “thankful and appreciative” that the majority of IPS staff is fully vaccinated, which weighed on the school district’s decision to remain open.

She did note, however, there had been one positive case at Birchview Elementary, which resulted in minimal exposure, and on Friday, one positive case was reported at the high school level that also resulted in minimal exposure. Individuals identified as close contacts were notified and sent home for quarantine.

“It is important to remember that this is a fluid situation and things could change very rapidly,” Meyer wrote. “However, please be assured that we will continue to monitor this situation carefully and cautiously.

“On behalf of the Ishpeming Public School District, I would like to thank you for working together as a team with our district this past year and for continuing to do all the right things.”

Marquette Area Public Schools, Gwinn Area Community Schools, Negaunee Public Schools and NICE Community Schools have decided to continue in-person learning as well.

Youth vaccinations urged

As part of the I Vaccinate campaign, doctors, nurses, hospitals, and state and national public health leaders on Monday urged Michigan parents to get their children up to date on vaccinations to prevent serious communicable diseases such as measles, mumps, pertussis, chickenpox and more from spreading as the state reopens after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In many states — including Michigan — vaccination rates of younger children dropped during the pandemic as parents postponed well-child visits to protect their kids from COVID-19. As a result, vaccination rates for Michigan children ages 19 to 36 months have fallen below 70% in more than half of the state, specifically 42 of 83 Michigan counties, according to February data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry.

In six Michigan counties and the city of Detroit, the rate has dropped below 60%. While community immunity is different for each disease and vaccine, doctors and public health experts generally agree that a 70% vaccination rate is the minimum protection level desired.

“At a time when our health care system is becoming once again overwhelmed (by the) COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that we avoid outbreaks of preventable serious diseases,” said Bob Swanson, Immunization Division director for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, in a statement. “It’s time to catch up Michigan children who did not get their routine vaccinations over the past year so we can protect them and our friends, families and loved ones who are medically unable to be vaccinated.”

The 10 areas with the lowest vaccination rates for children ages 19 to 36 months are: Oscoda County, 45.2%; city of Detroit, 49%; Gladwin County, 55.9%; Iron County, 58.3%; Lake County, 59.2%; Clare County, 59.3%; Otsego County, 59.9%; Mackinac County, 60.7%; Cass County, 61%; and Houghton County, 61.3%.

Healthy Michigan Plan reaches 900K mark

The Healthy Michigan Plan is now providing health care coverage to more than 900,000 state residents for the first time, Whitmer announced on Monday.

The Healthy Michigan Plan is the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health and finances of so many Michigan families underscores the importance of the Healthy Michigan Plan for its 900,000 enrollees,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Providing affordable health care coverage to all Michiganders is critical. I am proud of the Healthy Michigan Plan — one that I helped create during my time as Senate Democratic leader by collaborating with a Republican governor and legislature.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Healthy Michigan Plan beneficiaries jumped from just under 682,000 in late March 2020 to more than 900,000 now, the governor’s office reported. Michigan instituted policies to help families access affordable health care coverage such as deciding to avoid terminating Healthy Michigan Plan coverage and freeze premiums for as long as the COVID-19 public health emergency exists.

The state qualified for additional Medicaid funding from the federal government through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The MDHHS has also worked to streamline the application process over the past few years to ensure people eligible to receive benefits are able to access them without unnecessary burdensome requirements.

“The Healthy Michigan Plan is a perfect example of how we can work together with a bipartisan spirit to enact laws that make a positive difference in the lives of Michigan residents,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a statement. “Our residents have increased access to health care as a direct result of the Healthy Michigan Plan, which allows them to be healthy, successful and productive.”

Healthy Michigan Plan coverage is available to Michiganders ages 19-64 years old who have an income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level or $16,971 annually for a single person, and meet other eligibility requirements, such as not qualifying for other Medicaid programs. Expanded Medicaid plans are allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act if states decide to implement them.

Individuals may apply for the Healthy Michigan Plan at www.michigan.gov/MIBridges or call the Michigan HealthCare Helpline at 855-789-5610.

For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/HealthyMiPlan.

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