Updated 4/2/20 with additional information from the Health Department of Northwest Michigan.
People who visited the Meijer in Petoskey two weekends ago may have been minimally exposed to COVID-19, the Health Department of Northwest Michigan says.
A Meijer employee person later diagnosed with COVID-19 potentially exposed others in the store on Saturday, March 21 and Sunday, March 22 between 1:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. The worker was not experiencing symptoms during their shift and the health department says the exposure potential is low.
"When we do contact tracing we now start 48 hours before symptoms start," Dr. Josh Meyerson, the department's medical director says. "There was an someone there really without close contact but still was in the store so we wanted to make that public.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are reports of the virus spreading from people who don't show symptoms. The most common ways the virus is transmitted is through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
The health department recommends people who visited exposure sites quarantine themselves at home for 14 days. If people were at the Petoskey Meijer during that time frame and haven’t shown symptoms yet, they should stay inside for the next three to four days.
"I think the take home message is regardless of where you go, you're at risk for exposing someone or being exposed," Meyerson says.
The health department says there is growing evidence of community spread in the region. It says it is now going to be hard to track cases of the disease, because there are is still not enough testing and people may be contagious two days before they show symptoms.
In a news release, Lisa Peacock, the health officer at the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, said people should remember Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order is an order and not a suggestion.
She said it’s essential in protecting the public against the virus.
“We cannot overemphasize the importance of compliance,” Peacock said in a statement. “The rise in cases and ongoing community spread in Otsego County as well as the first death of a resident in our region yesterday reminds us it is imperative that we follow this order and not leave home.”
In the release, she also said essential businesses should be screening their employees and implementing social distancing measures. The health department says it provided resources to help those employers earlier this week.
There are now 75 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in northwest lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.