Region’s positivity rate for COVID-19 surpasses state level
GAYLORD — The positivity rate for COVID-19 in Northern Michigan surpasses levels seen at past peaks of the disease.
dr. Christine Nefcy, chief medical officer of Munson Healthcare, said Tuesday 21% of tests for the disease in the area served by the Munson system were positive, higher than the state’s overall rate of 16.8%, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).
Nefcy also discussed breakthrough cases or those who have contracted the coronavirus even after being vaccinated. She said 1.5% of those fully vaccinated in Michigan met the criteria of a breakthrough case. Of those who were vaccinated and contracted COVID-19 and later died, about 87% were over the age of 65.
“We know that when you’re older, your immune system doesn’t respond as well, and when you’re older, you probably have co-morbidities (the presence of two or more diseases or medical conditions in a patient),” Nefcy said.
She noted that most vaccines are not 100% effective and that effectiveness can diminish over time. That’s why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency booster shot last week to all adults six months after their last vaccine dose.
Nefcy also encouraged parents to have their children (ages 5 to 11) vaccinated, even though the disease risk for that age group is statistically small.
“We are still seeing children getting very sick from COVID-19 and the number of hospitalizations among children is rising,” says Nefcy. She said Munson does not have an intensive care unit or ICU for children. The closest one for Northern Michigan residents is Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.
Munson remains at the “red” pandemic response level, the highest alert level on a five-color scale.
Meanwhile, Munson announced revisions to its visiting policy, as the spread of the coronavirus raises additional concerns for virus transmission and the need for patient and worker safety.
Effective immediately, all inpatients, including those who have tested positive for COVID-19, are allowed one visitor per day in the facility. The visitor is limited to two hours.
Hospital staff will do all they can to help patients virtually connect with their loved ones, especially during Thanksgiving.
Exceptions to the two-hour rule for inpatients include:
- Obstetric patients receive one birth partner or counselor and one certified doula. Obstetric patients with a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 are allowed to visit one visitor, with the appropriate personal protective equipment.
- Pediatric patients (21 years of age or younger) may have two adult primary caregivers (such as parents, foster parents, or guardians) at the same time.
- Patients in the last phase of life receive two visitors at the same time.
The Northwest Michigan health department recently announced it has reached a milestone with 70% of residents age 16 and older in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties on at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
In addition, in nearly two weeks, 6.7% of children ages 5-11 in the four counties received their first dose of the approved Pfizer vaccine.
“Even with 70% vaccination coverage in individuals 16 years of age and older, there are still many susceptible individuals and a circulating strain (Delta) that is highly contagious and spreads more easily than the original strain,” said Dr. Joshua Meyerson, medical director of the Northwest Michigan Health Department. “Given the contagiousness of the virus, it is unlikely that we will achieve a level of immunity that will lead to elimination of this virus in the coming years.”
Despite the health department reaching this 70% milestone, cases have continued to increase across the region.
From 4 Nov. 7, the Northwest Michigan health department reported a total of 2,301 cases of COVID-19 in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties. The majority of reported cases, hospitalizations and deaths during this period were unvaccinated, according to health department data.
From 4 Nov. 7, the health department reported that 66.38% of cases occurred in individuals who had not been vaccinated. Of the unvaccinated cases, 52.8% were symptomatic, 3.7% asymptomatic and 43.5% reported no symptom status.
“Getting vaccinated reduces your risk of infection, but more importantly, it significantly reduces your risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death from this virus,” Meyerson said. “Most of the reported cases are in unvaccinated individuals and over 90% of those currently hospitalized in our ICUs are unvaccinated.”
Health department officials reiterate that vaccination is the best way to reduce an individual’s risk of contracting COVID-19, as well as the best method of mitigating the impact of COVID-19 in the region.
A number of cases
On Nov. 22, the Northwest Michigan health department reported that Otsego County had 3,831 COVID-19 cases and 65 deaths from the coronavirus so far.
As of November 17, Otsego County had 3,715 COVID-19 cases and 63 deaths from COVID-19.
Antrim County reported 2,745 cases and 42 deaths on Nov. 22, while Charlevoix County had 2,933 cases and 42 deaths. Emmet County had 3,829 cases and 55 deaths.
Antrim County reported 2,668 cases and 40 deaths on Nov. 17, while Charlevoix County had 2,821 cases and 39 deaths. Emmet County reported 3,748 cases and 53 deaths.
Statewide, Michigan had 1,259,261 cases and 23,315 deaths as of Nov. 22, according to MDHHS. The state reported 1,224,273 cases and 23,104 deaths on Nov. 17.
The first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan were reported on March 10, 2020, and the first death was reported on March 19 last year.
Steve Foley of the Petoskey News-Review contributed to this report