Area COVID-19 numbers continue to improve
Fri, 02/26/2021 - 11:40am caleb
Munson Healthcare and District Health Department #10 report positive trends as they continue vaccination efforts
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The COVID-19 vaccination effort continues in northern Michigan while area healthcare officials report positive trends in the area’s numbers with regard to cases, test positivity rates, and hospitalizations.
Dr. Christine Nefcy, Munson Healthcare Chief Medical Officer, during an online press conference on Tuesday, February 23, said the region’s COVID-19 numbers “continue to trend in the right direction.”
“The good news is that our precent positive rate and our cases per 100,000 continue to decline and head in the right direction. Along with that decline in our number of community cases we have seen a significant decline in the number of inpatients. We’ve actually been holding pretty steady for the last five days or so but haven’t seen a big bump and are absolutely at a manageable point in the number of inpatient COVID patients that we have across the system,” Dr. Nefcy said.
District Health Department #10, which covers 10 Michigan counties (including Crawford), reported 42 active cases of COVID-19 in Crawford County on Thursday, February 25.
According to the Centers For Disease Control, the United States has had more than 28 million total cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic, and the death toll is now over 500,000.
“We did reach a grim and heartbreaking milestone as a country. We did crest over 500,000 deaths from COVID-19,” Dr. Nefcy said. “We have seen higher numbers of deaths from COVID than we’ve seen from World War I, World War II, and Vietnam combined.”
According to officials, Munson Healthcare has administered more than 32,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and 66 percent of the system’s workers have been vaccinated.
“Good news though on the vaccine front. We do continue to get vaccine. We continue to work very closely with our health departments to distribute that,” Dr. Nefcy said.
Dr. Nefcy said all of Munson Healthcare’s allocation of vaccine is currently scheduled for use. Munson Healthcare is not taking appointment requests for vaccine, but Dr. Nefcy said anyone who received their first dose from Munson Healthcare will be able to get their second dose.
“We are still receiving vaccine but as we have transitioned from giving that vaccine to a lot of healthcare providers and more to the general public the state has likewise adjusted the allocation to lean more heavily on health departments and pharmacies to provide that, so we are still getting vaccine, we just aren’t getting it in a volume enough to justify standing up a big mass vaccination clinic,” Dr. Nefcy said. “If we did receive a large amount of vaccine we would certainly reconsider that and look at standing up some mass vax clinics, but as of right now the volume we’re getting just doesn’t justify that.”
District Health Department #10 is also continuing its vaccination efforts.
“We continue to have vaccination clinics in many of our counties on most days, including Saturdays,” said Dr. Jennifer Morse, District Health Department #10 Medical Director. “We continue to plug along with our vaccination clinics.”
According to District Health Department #10, it administered 482 doses of vaccine in Crawford County from February 15 through February 20 (347 first doses and 135 second doses).
“This week, DHD#10 is hosting first-dose and second-dose clinics for the priority groups throughout our 10-county jurisdiction. Vaccine clinics are by appointment only – please no walk-ins. If people do not show up for their scheduled appointments, DHD#10 has a stand-by list made up of people on our waiting lists to call in so that no vaccine goes to waste. If you are unable to make your scheduled appointment, please email us at email@example.com to let us know. You will be placed back on the waiting list and will be contacted as soon as we can get you rescheduled,” District Health Department #10 officials said.
Dr. Morse said the department will be changing its vaccination process soon, moving to larger clinics as requested by the state.
“Starting mid-March our focus will start to turn towards large, more centralized vaccination clinics, rotating through different counties. We’re still looking for locations to have those and we’ll likely be partnering with the National Guard to do that,” Dr. Morse said.
Starting this month, health departments will also begin vaccinating a new group of eligible people.
“On February 15, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced that workers in food processing and agricultural settings will be able to be vaccinated as of March 1 to help ensure the health and safety of Michigan’s essential food and agricultural workers and keep the state’s food supply chain moving. It is important to note that DHD#10 is currently working on plans to accommodate this group in the near future but is unable to schedule individuals that fall in food processing and agriculture quite yet. We will announce our plans as soon as they are complete. It is also important to note that this new group does not include the food service industry such as restaurant workers that serve food. It only includes food processing plants and farms that grow food,” according to District Health Department #10.
Dr. Nefcy said new variants of COVID-19 have been identified in Michigan, and people should continue to take precautions against infection as healthcare officials monitor the new versions of the virus.
“What we know is that they are likely to be able to spread more easily, though we have not seen any data to support any increased virulence from those mutations. That being said, it is really important to continue to stay the course, to wear a mask, maintain your social distancing, avoid those large indoor gatherings, get tested if you have any symptoms at all or at risk of exposure, and get vaccinated as soon as you can,” Dr. Nefcy said.
Dr. Josh Meyerson, Medical Director of the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department and Health Department of Northwest Michigan, said the current decrease in testing is “somewhat concerning,” and people should continue to follow recommendations to protect against spread of COVID-19.
“When there’s a lot less cases you’re going to have a decrease to some extent in the amount of testing that’s being done. Less people being exposed, they’re less likely to get tested, but we really also have seen a dropoff in testing recently I think that is somewhat concerning to me. We still need that surveillance,” Dr. Meyerson said. “We are vaccinating, getting doses in arms as quickly as we can, but we still have a long way to go before we have that community immunity where we can really let our guard down to some extent, so really important that people continue to follow the mitigation measures, and testing is really important because as we can find cases earlier we can do that contact tracing and that quarantining and we can reduce the spread.”