U.P., Marquette Co. at 35% test positivity rate

Officials acknowledge high testing demand, open new vaccination site as omicron surges, strains capacity

A line of people wait outside the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services testing site at the Westwood Mall in Marquette Township earlier this week. With demand for testing soaring, it is anticipated that the MDHHS testing site will merge with a newly opened vaccination site at the mall in the near future, officials said. (Courtesy photo)

MARQUETTE — As omicron cases soar in the region, people are lining up for COVID-19 tests and vaccines, while local health officials are warning of the strain on local health care systems.

With cases rising, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 vaccination site has opened at the Westwood Mall in Marquette Township, the Marquette County Health Department announced Thursday.

The new vaccination site, located inside the former MC Sports location, offers primary and booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for individuals ages 12 and over.

Officials say the MDHHS testing site currently at the mall is expected to merge with the new vaccination site in the future.

“There is adequate testing available in the state, but we are aware there is an increased demand recently due to the surge in cases, identification of the omicron variant in the state and Michiganders getting tested before the holidays,” said Chelsea Wuth, associate public information officer for MDHHS, in an email.

COVID-19 testing remains available at the current location next to Dunham’s Sports at the mall. Testing hours are 1 to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

However, it is anticipated that MDHHS testing will merge with the vaccination site in the future. Changes in hours and location will be announced as the information becomes available.

Community pop-up testing sites are listed at bit.ly/3FoSbvC, which includes testing at welcome centers and airports in addition to 22 neighborhood testing sites across Michigan, she said. To find testing sites, they also can visit solvhealth.com.

With the Biden administration announcement that half a billion over-the-counter tests will be purchased for people who want them, MDHHS anticipates that residents will have additional access to tests, but it doesn’t yet have details, Wuth said.

Local officials urge caution amid surge

A news release from Gerald Messana, MCHD health officer, and Gar Atchison, CEO of UP Health System – Marquette, noted the recent strain the omicron surge is placing on the capacity of medical care facilities.

“COVID-19 has torn through our country, our region and the heatlh care systems in our state with a ferocity we have never seen in our lifetime in health care,” they said in the release. “Like most health care facilities in our region, our area hospitals are overburdened and operating at the very edge of capacity.”

Marquette County, along with the entire Upper Peninsula, is at a high risk level due to the more than 35% positivity test rate from Jan. 5 through Tuesday.

“As medical professionals, we have seen firsthand the unique effects this virus can have on our patients — including long-lasting side effects that can significantly impact one’s quality of life,” they said. “We’ve also observed how increases in cases of COVID-19 can put a strain on the entire health care system, from our fellow medical staff, to nursing, to environmental services and more.”

Messana and Atchison expressed concern that local hospitals are quickly reaching capacity.

“Already, we have difficulty relying on transfers to academic medical centers in nearby regions because they are full,” they said.

They also noted that health care facilities continue to care for traumas and other emergencies.

Messana and Atchison said people should wear a mask, practice social distancing, continue proper hand hygiene — and most importantly — get vaccinated.

They recommended people also receive booster shots and get vaccinated for the flu, and get tested if they don’t feel well or are exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Masks should be worn in indoor public or other outdoor spaces, including schools, and masks should preferably be N95 or KN95 if tolerated.

They urged local communities to take COVID-19 seriously and keep those communities “healthy and safe.”

“All of us need to take the personal responsibility to make this happen,” they said.

Library goes virtual

Peter White Public Library announced it is temporarily transitioning its programs from in-person activities to virtual, effective immediately.

Due to staffing shortages, library operating hours will be reduced from Monday through Jan. 29.

Effective Monday, temporary hours will be 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

PWPL said curbside services continue to be available at the library for anyone wanting materials delivered to their vehicle in the parking lot. Visit www.pwpl.info to get more information about curbside services.

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


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