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New COVID-19 cases discovered in the region, local health officials warn of more possible spread

Interlochen Public Radio


The coronavirus is starting to creep back into northern Michigan. 

Local health departments report several COVID-19 cases in many northwest lower Michigan counties. On Tuesday, three cases were reported in Benzie County, five in Mason County, four in Wexford County and one each in Charlevoix, Kalkaska, Leelanau and Manistee counties, bringing the daily total to 16 cases.

Some of the recent positive tests recorded at the end of last week were found during widespread testing of long term care facilities. Two employees at the Grand Traverse Pavilions tested positive. In Charlevoix, the National Guard found six employees of the Grandvue Medical Care Facility had the disease. Four other cases were discovered at other facilities in Charlevoix, Leelanau and Wexford Counties.

In Grand Traverse County, two men and two women were diagnosed over the weekend. The two men had a history of domestic travel while the two women are guessed to have picked up the virus through community transmission.

More contact tracing

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan says with the new cases it’s seeing many more contacts that need to be reached who may have been exposed to the tested person.

Also, the health department is receiving more complaints of people not wearing masks in public. The officials cite increasing evidence that wearing a mask can stop transmission and ask the community to follow the governor’s guidelines.

Last week’s notification of possible exposure sites in Grand Traverse County hasn’t led to more positive cases yet, says Emmy Schumacher, spokesperson for the Grand Traverse County Health Department. Though, she says, sometimes it can take several weeks for an infected person to show symptoms or get tested.

Rural outbreaks

Further south, the coronavirus continues to spread in Oceana and Newaygo counties. While Grand Traverse County cases have slowly risen by just about ten cases over the last month, Oceana County shot from about 50 cases to over 270. Similarly, Newaygo County now has at least 160 positive cases.

The outbreaks are tied to several businesses and agriculture. Then workers brought the disease home, infecting friends and family. Local health officials say three out of four got it from someone they know well.

The availability of testing also led to the discovery of more cases, including many asymptomatic residents who were diagnosed prior to a medical procedure.

District Health Department #10 held a virtual town hall yesterday to answer community questions. Again, officials emphasized that mask wearing, social distancing and quarantining if exposed are the best possible ways to reduce further spread.