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Covid-19 surges in northern Michigan, more variant cases detected

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Taylor Wizner
/
Interlochen Public Radio

 

This week, several cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been found in four northern Michigan counties, as Covid-19 infections accelerate across the region.

Covid cases are growing faster in Michigan than any other state. Northwest lower counties are among those with the worst rates of spread per population.

Local health officials warn they are seeing spikes similar to the fall, when cases peaked in the region.

Michigan and Florida also remain the only two states with more than 700 confirmed cases of the variant and indications suggest even more cases in northern Michigan.

This week several cases of the variant were found in Kalkaska, Missaukee, Otsego and Wexford, some areas where Covid is spreading the most.

Local health officials say they can’t say for sure if the more contagious strain is responsible for the increased spread, but they say there are likely hundreds more cases in the community.

The new surge has officials worried even as more are being vaccinated.

Munson’s Chief Medical Officer Christine Nefcy noted the “exponential uptick” of hospitalizations Tuesday. In just over a week, the number of in-patients has doubled—as of Friday there were 63 in the system.

Lisa Peacock, the Health Officer for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, says people are letting their guard down.

“I think what we’re seeing is it’s not cases happening during a time of restriction but cases happening after restrictions have been opened up when people just are naturally gathering together doing things they’re allowed to do,” she says.

Health departments say people are socializing and traveling more and generally ignoring mild symptoms. Outbreaks have been reported among student athletes, in workplaces and jails.

But by all accounts vaccinations are helping. Grand Traverse County officials say 67% of the cases this month have been in those less than 50 years of age, which means older vaccinated community members are being protected.

Health officials encourage those planning to leave during spring break to get tested before and after travel.