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Report: COVID outbreaks in the Upper Peninsula impact frontline workers and their families

Interlochen Public Radio


When COVID-19 surged in the Upper Peninsula in the early winter months, it had a disproportionate impact on first responders, health care and frontline workers and children, according to a recent report.

A Columbia University research team shared these findings after obtaining state documents on COVID hotspots in the U.P. Epidemiologist reports and contact tracing interview notes gave insight into who was becoming sick and how they likely contracted the virus. 

Their work was published in partnership with the Detroit Free Press in early January.

Derek Kravitz, a data reporter at the Brown Institute for Media Innovation,says for those who contracted COVID he found they often had inadequate testing, workplace compliance issues and a lack of situational awareness.

“When you have that mix of lack of widespread testing, people not necessarily following all the rules where they live as it relates to masks and being careful with PPE, and a virus that is spreading that is very transmissive that is especially transmissive in the winter months when people are staying indoors,” he says.

“When you mix those things together you get a very bad outcome.” 

Kravitz says one of the surprising data points was how many children — almost 1,400 — became ill. He says they don’t know why so many children were affected, but it’s likely they were exposed to it by a family member.

“Front line workers… are sick and their kids get sick and it’s unclear if the kids brought it home with them and infected the parents or vise versa. But usually that infection happens at home,” he says.

Driving the U.P.’s winter surge, Kravitz says about 20 percent of transmission reportedly occurred among family members in the same home.

Taylor Wizner covers heath, tourism and other news for Interlochen Public Radio.