UP’s health departments warn ahead of Bank Holiday weekend that COVID spread is high

UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WLUC) — Six UP counties are now in the CDC’s high-risk category for community transmission. Marquette, Delta, Schoolcraft and Luce Counties have joined Chippewa and Mackinac Counties at the highest level.

The CDC recommends that all community members wear safe, high-filtration face masks in public places and in close proximity to others in areas with high risk of transmission. This recommendation is made in an effort to contain the ongoing spread of COVID-19 in the community.

To protect one another, especially those most at risk such as children under the age of 5 and those with compromised immune systems, the LMAS District Health Department and Marquette County Health Department (MCHD) encourage community members to take these small steps:

  • Get vaccinated, including a booster shot or fourth dose if appropriate
  • If you get a fever and other symptoms (sore throat, cough, etc.), stay home until your fever goes down and symptoms improve.
  • Get tested, and if you’re positive for COVID-19, notify your close contacts and talk to your doctor about therapeutics.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask when in close contact with others indoors.
  • If you become infected again, assess your risk of severe infection and discuss the use of antiviral therapies with your doctor.

MCHD Medical Director answered some frequently asked questions about the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Why is Marquette having another wave of COVID?

“The simple answer is Omicron variants and community case reinfection rates are officially seven times higher than our trough before this last wave. This is likely undercounted by 2 to 8 times since almost all home tests are not part of the stats.”

Why isn’t Marquette seeing a proportionate increase in severe cases, hospitalizations, and deaths?

“Because of vaccinations and previous Omicron infections. The same answer can be given nationwide.”

Here is an updated summary of UPHS-Marquette’s positive COVID approvals as of May 9:

  • What percentage of patients in hospital with positive COVID tests are admitted secondary to COVID, not accidentally positive? 41%
  • What percentage of patients admitted for COVID are up to date with vaccines i.e. at least one booster shot if appropriate? 25%
  • Will someone be admitted for COVID requiring increased care in the ICU? no
  • Age range of people approved for COVID? 42-95
  • Length of stay of people admitted due to COVID? 1-19 days; average 6 days

According to state data released Wednesday, 17 people with COVID are hospitalized in the UP and two patients with COVID are in intensive care.

Those vaccinated, and especially those who have been boosted, continue to have strong protection against serious illnesses, even BA.2.12.1. and BA.2, known as the Omicron variants, which are the two variants primarily circulating in the United States, the MCHD said.

These newer Omicron subvariants are better than previous strains at escaping immunity from vaccines and previous infections, meaning even people infected with the original Omicron strain are at risk of reinfection, but im generally still protected from serious diseases. People who are current on COVID vaccines and have previously been infected with Omicron are the most protected demographic, followed by those who are vaccinated and uninfected; infected but not vaccinated; and finally, according to MCHD, those at highest risk are those who have not been vaccinated or previously infected.

A recent and local outbreak in care homes has seen 22 cases in the past two weeks. Almost all residents are double charged. In the past, before vaccination, this would have resulted in a 20-30% hospitalization rate and 1-4 deaths. Instead, the MCHD said they are seeing minor cold-like symptoms in a patient with oxygen-dependent lung disease who goes to the emergency room for evaluation and is then allowed to return. Several patients in hospice care die before diagnosis of COVID unrelated to COVID, so multiple deaths will be related to COVID, the MCHD said.

If I am fully vaccinated, can I be confident that I will not become seriously ill, be hospitalized or die?

“No, but your chances of getting vaccinated are probably five to ten times lower.”

What is my absolute risk of becoming seriously ill, being hospitalized, or dying?

“It’s very difficult to pinpoint and hard to find, but if it were available it would make counseling individuals easier.”

Based on data from the CDC, the MCMD says the risk of hospitalization is about 2% for those aged 50 to 64 and 12% for those over 65. For death 0.06% for 50-64 year olds, 0.2% for 65-65 year olds. 74 and 1% for over 75s.

LMAS is making free COVID-19 testing kits and masks available to the public at all four LMAS offices – in St. Ignace, Newberry, Manistique and Munising. All households can also now order additional test kits at COVID.gov/tests. For more information or to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, visit LMASDHD.org. Visit COVID.CDC.gov to access the data tracker for the United States, individual states or by county.

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