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U.P. health department sees 2,800% increase in COVID-19 cases this month

An Upper Peninsula health department is warning about the recent, explosive spread of COVID-19.
An Upper Peninsula health department is warning about the recent, explosive spread of COVID-19.

A local health department in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has issued an urgent plea for people to get vaccinated and wear masks in public places as the coronavirus delta variant spreads.

The LMAS District Health Department, which covers four counties just north of the Mackinac Bridge, has reported more than 200 COVID-19 cases this month.

It’s a small number compared to some more populated health districts in Michigan, but LMAS department spokesperson Kerry Ott said it’s almost a 2,800% percent increase from last month.

“We are finding an incredible increase in cases as we move through the month of August. We really are seeing a situation that we haven’t seen since last October, with a rapid -- very rapid -- increase,” Ott said.

The four counties Ott’s health department covers -- Luce, Mackinac, Alger and Schoolcraft -- don’t have a single intensive care bed. Ott said as ICUs in nearby counties fill up, some of her patients could be transferred as far away as Wisconsin.

Ott said she expects the virus’s spread to accelerate as children too young to be vaccinated head back to in-person classes, so she’s urging people throughout her health department’s jurisdiction to wear masks and keep their distance from each other in public places.

Ott posted the department’s appeal on its Facebook page.

“I was a little apprehensive,” she said. “I’m always apprehensive when I put out anything about wearing masks and social distancing because there is a group of the population that gets wound up about that.”

But she said the public response this time has been positive.

“I think people understand that we really need their help,” she said.

Brett has a master’s degree from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism and before Michigan Radio, he was an intern at WNYC and with Ian Urbina of the New York Times and worked at WXXI and WCMU. He also produced freelance reporting work focused on health and science in New York City. Brett grew up in Bremerton, Washington, and holds a bachelor’s degree from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.