Healthcare officials concerned that another COVID-19 surge may be on the horizon
Mon, 03/15/2021 - 9:55am caleb
Representatives from Munson Healthcare and District Health Department #10 say virus variants and spring break travel could lead to further increase in cases
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Some area health officials – during an online press conference on Tuesday, March 9 – said they’re concerned about the possibility of another COVID-19 spike in Michigan in the near future due to the presence of multiple coronavirus variants in the state and upcoming travel and gatherings associated with spring break.
“We have seen a slow but steady increase in the numbers in northern Michigan over the last week or so,” said Dr. Christine Nefcy, Munson Healthcare Chief Medical Officer. “We are currently at a 4.2 percent positivity rate and have 196 cases per 100,000, which is up from last week.”
“We currently have 27 patients hospitalized across the Munson Healthcare system with COVID-19. Again, that is an increase over what we saw last week. As our numbers have increased in the community we have seen a follow increase in the number of patients hospitalized,” Dr. Nefcy said.
Munson Healthcare officials reported that the region has experienced more than 26,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and close to 600 total deaths from the virus overall.
Dr. Nefcy said healthcare officials are concerned about the presence of COVID-19 variants in Michigan.
“We have seen several of the new variants here in northern Michigan. We are concerned that those new mutations are more contagious and so it’s very, very important that we continue to stay the course and slow the spread,” Dr. Nefcy said. “Again, those variants do appear to be more transmissible. There is some preliminary data that shows they may be less responsive to some vaccines so it’s very important that we avoid exposure, and again important that we understand that the more virus that’s out there the more opportunity it has to mutate, so continuing to quarantine when you’re sick and really do everything you can in your power to prevent the spread of COVID-19 continues to be of utmost importance.”
During the Q&A portion of the March 9 press conference, Dr. Nefcy addressed a couple of specific questions about whether or not the current increase in the test positivity rates and hospitalization numbers could be signaling the beginning of another major surge in cases.
“It certainly appears that we are seeing the start of one. I think most of us on this call are worried not only with clusters we’re seeing and the new variants and spring break coming, that it’s kind of a perfect storm to lead to that surge,” Dr. Nefcy said. “I don’t know at this point but certainly it appears that this is a slow trend up. We’ve been tracking this for about a week or so. If you look at the data points it’s been pretty consistent. It really remains to be seen.”
Dr. Jennifer Morse, District Health Department #10 Medical Director, said healthcare officials are “really fearful about mid-April when everyone’s come back from spring break.”
“We really are at a tipping point,” Dr. Morse said. “I think we’re headed for another spike, probably mid-April if we’re not cautious with the different variants, increased gatherings, and travel that we’re seeing, so just remember just because something might be allowed doesn’t necessarily mean that it is safe. Just be really cautious because we don’t want to end up having to tighten restrictions again.”
Munson Healthcare reported that it is not “scheduling any additional first or second dose clinics” right now. Munson Healthcare officials said vaccines are available through local health departments and large pharmacies (specifically Meijer and Rite Aid).
Walgreens of Grayling is offering vaccine appointments for eligible people this week, according to the pharmacy, through the Walgreens website at www.walgreens.com/findcare/vaccination/covid-19/location-screening. A Walgreens username and password is required to proceed through the online scheduling process.
Dr. Morse said District Health Department #10, which covers 10 Michigan counties (including Crawford), has provided 26,065 first doses and 13,101 second doses of COVID-19 vaccine (as of Tuesday, March 9). Dr. Morse said the department has increased its eligible groups for vaccination to include people age 50 and up, “frontline essential workers,” and “caregivers of individuals with special needs.”
The department is currently planning “larger offsite clinics” for vaccinations, Dr. Morse said.
The District Health Department #10 website at www.dhd10.org/covid-19-vaccine/ has links to schedule appointments and join waiting lists for eligible groups of people.
Dr. Morse said citizens in one of the District Health Department #10 counties reported that a person was going door to door claiming to be from the health department and offering to sell vaccine. Dr. Morse said the offer is “not legitimate.”
“We just want to remind people that unfortunately there are people that are utilizing this pandemic as a means to scam and to do other fraudulent activity. The local health departments and the state health department will never try to sell you any vaccine,” Dr. Morse said.