Health officials concerned about spread of delta variant
Tue, 07/27/2021 - 2:33pm caleb
Munson Healthcare reports low COVID-19 numbers in northern Michigan, but variant is causing large outbreaks in other states
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Area healthcare officials – during an online press conference hosted by Munson Healthcare on Tuesday, July 20 – reported that COVID-19 numbers in the region continue to remain low, but they are concerned about the growing presence of the more contagious delta variant of the virus in parts of the United States.
Dr. Christine Nefcy, Munson Healthcare Chief Medical Officer, said COVID-19 case rates and test positivity rates in the area are still low. District Health Department #10 reported a slight recent increase in its 10-county area.
“I am happy to report we seem to be holding steady at about a 1.3 percent positivity rate,” Dr. Nefcy said. “We had dropped below one percent very temporarily but we’ve been hanging out here for about a week or so and we have currently 21 cases per 100,000. That has translated into a steady number of COVID positive inpatients across our system. We are currently at five. We have been under 10 for a couple of weeks now and continue to hold there as well.”
“Our cases and trends are following what the region and Grand Traverse and the state overall have been seeing, so I’m announcing that our cases are remaining steady,” said Jordan Powell, District Health Department #10 Epidemiologist. “Over the weekend we did see a few more cases than we’re used to seeing.”
Powell reported that daily cases per million increased from 11.29 on July 2 to 12.99 on July 9, and test positivity rates increased from 1.37 percent on July 2 to 1.79 percent on July 9.
Munson Healthcare officials showed maps with information regarding the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant in the United States. Dr. Nefcy said the maps give a “broader view just to show why we’re concerned about the delta variant.” Officials also showed a graph that points to increasing cases in the United States.
“You’ve probably seen that many states are reporting an increase in their numbers, some much more significant increase than others,” Dr. Nefcy said. “You can see on that trend line that sharp decline and then going up again. We do think this is because of the delta variant, which we now know is probably quite dominant across the United States. What we know about this variant – as we’ve said before – is it is quite contagious, much more so than the original form or even the alpha variant.”
Munson Healthcare officials said maps show COVID-19 “hotspots” in the U.S. in places like Florida, California, and Arizona with “steady increase in the number of cases that are being reported.”
Health officials have said that the COVID-19 vaccines are a little less effective against the delta variant, but they still offer significant protection.
“Some states are preparing for full blown outbreaks as they see their numbers increase quite significantly and what we are learning from across the country is that this really is an outbreak among unvaccinated individuals,” Dr. Nefcy said.
Officials shared another U.S. map that shows “geographic areas where we’re seeing the most cases across the country.”
“You’ll see that corridor there from Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri, that’s just in the past week, and some other hotspots in Florida and kind of around the country. This is – again – a concern to us. So far, we are doing pretty well in northern Michigan, but still a concern,” Dr. Nefcy said. “There are some hotspots across the country that have under a 30 percent vaccination rate. We are quite a bit higher than that in northern Michigan.”
Munson Healthcare officials said Michigan has a 57.3 percent vaccination rate, and the region is slightly higher at 60.7 percent.
“We are better than many areas of the country here in Michigan, and specifically here in northern Michigan, but we are not completely out of the woods,” Dr. Nefcy said.
“Those things that we talked about early on in this pandemic about hospitals being overwhelmed, a staff being overwhelmed, running out of equipment, those are some of the stories we’re starting to see from some of these places that are suffering outbreaks and what many areas in the country are preparing for with this new variant,” Dr. Nefcy said. “The vast majority of the people that are getting hospitalized now – even with our low numbers – are unvaccinated people, and deaths even more so.”
District Health Department #10 reported one confirmed case of the delta variant in Crawford County on July 19.
“An individual with a history of international travel was recently identified as having the delta variant of COVID-19 in Crawford County as of July 19, 2021. The individual reported having one dose of a two-dose series of the COVID-19 vaccine and was tested for COVID-19 on July 5, 2021,” according to District Health Department #10. “The first Michigan case of the Delta variant was identified in Ottawa County in June. Several other cases have been identified in Michigan since the first case was announced. Only a small percentage of COVID-19 tests are sequenced to identify the variant strain. In addition, it takes additional time to perform the genetic sequencing. Therefore, it is likely that there are additional unidentified cases of the delta variant in the DHD#10 10-county jurisdiction at this time.”
Munson Healthcare officials said on Tuesday that they expect the delta variant to cause more COVID-19 cases in Michigan.
“We have pockets around our region where the immunization rates are much lower than they are in others, so we do fully expect that as we walk around unmasked, get together more often, are eating out or going to stores, all of that kind of stuff, that we are at risk, specifically, with our unvaccinated population for getting this variant much more easily and spreading it much more easily,” Dr. Nefcy said.
Powell said vaccination appointment information is available at the department’s website at www.dhd10.org.