COVID-19 Update: Test to Treat program available at Westwood Mall


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — To help remove barriers and ensure more Michigan residents have access to COVID-19 outpatient treatments, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is offering a Test to Treat program at 13 locations across the state that offer no-cost testing and telehealth services.

One of those locations is the Westwood Mall, located at 3020 U.S. 41 in Marquette Township.

“Early access to these medications helps support faster recovery and decreases the risk of hospitalization,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive, in a statement. “COVID-19 treatments are most effective at preventing severe illness when taken as soon after symptoms start.

“This program provides Michiganders with limited access to a health care provider the ability to be evaluated and treated for COVID-19, rapidly, confidentially and at no cost.”

Michigan is the first state to launch this federal initiative at neighborhood testing sites that provide rapid access to no-cost COVID-19 antiviral medications, MDHHS said.

“Through a partnership between the state of Michigan, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, telehealth is enabling easy access to these life-saving medications,” said Matt Quinn, science director of the Army’s Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center, in a statement.

Test to Treat sites allow individuals to access testing, a health assessment and medication prescriptions all in one visit. Michigan residents who test positive for COVID-19 at these locations will be able to use telehealth services on site.

The health care provider will talk to the individual who tests positive, and through a confidential conversation that includes reviewing health history and current medications, the provider will determine whether the individual is eligible for antiviral treatment, MDHHS said. The provider will then submit a prescription to a pharmacy close to the site, chosen by the individual.

Individuals who are at high risk of developing severe symptoms from COVID-19 infection are encouraged to discuss these options with the health care provider.

The criteria used to select the communities offering telehealth services include:

≤ A high social vulnerability index;

≤ a high percentage of people over age 50 tested at the identified site;

≤ locations with limited access to health care sites outside of emergency departments; and

≤ sites with high testing throughout these locations.

For more information about COVID-19 testing, treatments and vaccinations, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.

Long-term facilities addressed

In a letter to Michigan long-term care facility administrators, the MDDHS noted that with the onset of fall, it anticipates an uptick in cases of respiratory diseases, specifically COVID-19.

With the authorization of bivalent boosters on Sept. 2, the MDHHS said it wants to ensure all long-term care facilities have access to COVID-19 vaccines for their staff, patients and residents.

The new bivalent vaccines, the MDHHS said, are recommended to everyone ages 12 years and older who completed their primary series, with at least two months since their latest COVID-19 vaccination. These new boosters are formulated to protect against the most recent variants (BA.4 and BA.5) of COVID-19.

As with other infectious diseases, people are best protected from COVID-19 when they stay up to date on recommended vaccine doses, the MDHHS said, which means getting all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including the new bivalent booster dose when eligible.

As of June 2, unvaccinated people ages 12 and older were 6.1 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared with people who were up to date on vaccines, the MDHHS said. Those who are both vaccinated and boosted are the best protected against the various strains of COVID-19.

Efforts to maximize the number of people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 remain critical to reducing spread, especially heading into the winter months, said MDHHS, which noted that the risk for severe COVID-19 illness increases with older adults and those with underlying medical conditions.

MDHHS stressed that it is crucial that residents and staff in long-term care settings such as nursing homes, assisted living communities, residential care communities, group homes and senior housing have access to and obtain the COVID-19 vaccines.

MDHHS also encourages these facilities to integrate COVID-19 vaccinations into routine care such as co-administration with seasonal flu vaccination or to enroll as a COVID-19 provider if possible.

For facilities unable to enroll as a COVID-19 provider, MDHHS urges them to work with their local community partners, including pharmacies and federally qualified health centers, to obtain vaccines for their staff and residents as part of routine care. Additionally, local health departments will provide vaccinations for any staff or resident family member who can visit their locations.

Kits available to students

NMU President Kerri Schuiling, in a recent letter to students, faculty and staff, issued a reminder that free at-home testing kits are available to students, while supplies last, in the lobby of the NMU Health Center during regular university hours, or 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the NMU Police Department in the Services Building along Sugar Loaf Avenue.

At the NMU COVID-19 Dashboard, found at nmu.edu/safe-on-campus/dashboard, the latest updated data, posted on Friday, showed that out of 22 isolation spaces, only one space was occupied.

Marquette County’s transmission rate remains low

In another correspondence to students, faculty and staff, Schuiling wrote, “I’m happy to report that our recent campus case numbers have been very low. We’ve actually had a higher rate of colds. However, please continue to remain diligent in our COVID-19 mitigation efforts (hand washing, staying home when sick or with symptoms, masking and testing when symptoms are present or exposed, and isolating when positive).”

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


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