TRAVERSE CITY — All Michigan National Guard COVID-19 testing events are temporarily suspended after multiple team members fell ill with the contagious pandemic disease, officials said.
That’s why the three community testing events once scheduled for this week in Traverse City, Glen Arbor and Thompsonville were canceled shortly after being publicly announced, confirmed Capt. Andrew Layton, Michigan Air National Guard deputy state public affairs officer.
The decision was made “out of an abundance of caution,” he said, and impacted testing events across Michigan, not just those up north.
Layton said the Guard immediately implemented self-isolation and quarantine protocols for the testing teams.
“This is the first identification of COVID-19 on the Michigan National Guard’s testing teams, which have performed more than 204,000 COVID-19 tests since their mission began in May,” he said in a written statement.
In past months, the Guard has conducted about 1,000 tests at its Traverse City area events and as many as 2,000 at downstate ones. Statistics show that equates to about 5 percent of the state’s 35,300 daily tests on average, depending on participant turnout.
The Guard’s testing teams will return to service when available, Layton said.
Despite rising cases and an increasing infection rate, the Traverse City region remains the area with the smallest number of positive COVID-19 cases in Michigan.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said during a Wednesday press conference that such news is not as rosy of a picture as it might seem.
The Traverse City region has a positive infection rate of 3 percent, but both the number of cases and the positivity rate have increased during the past two weeks.
Statistics show the 17-county region across northern Lower Michigan show cases have increased from 39.5 cases per day per million people on Sept. 30 to 66 cases per day per million as of Oct. 14.
Health officials across the area reported an additional 109 confirmed cases in the past 48 hours, bringing the regional total to 2,434 cases and 76 reported deaths. Only Missaukee County did not gain any cases Wednesday or Thursday, records show.
State health officials on Thursday announced an additional 1,873 confirmed cases statewide, up from the 1,597 statewide cases announced Wednesday.
MDHHS data shows Michigan now has had nearly 153,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, along with 7,129 reported deaths. The U.S. now stands at nearly 8.4 million cases and nearly 223,000 deaths, according to disease trackers at Johns Hopkins University.
Although Michigan is not seeing as severe of a second wave as other states, Khaldun said residents still have “reasons to be concerned.”
Khaldun reported the state’s infection rate has increased more than 80 percent in the past month. Of the more than 35,000 tests conducted every day, 4.9 percent are testing positive for the virus. The Upper Peninsula has the highest rate at 9.3 percent.
The health officer for District Health Department No. 10 said with the increasing cases come a spiking number of people identified as close contacts through contact tracing — people potentially exposed to the deadly pandemic disease.
“What we are dealing with this week is not only many positive cases, but also a substantially large number of close contacts to each case that must be contacted. For example, one positive case in a school can have upwards of 35 close contacts or more that all must be contacted,” said Kevin Hughes.
He said the health department must adjust its staffing to manage the expanding caseload.
Among the district’s 10 counties, all but two have experienced substantial case increases between August and mid-October — the largest a more than 400 percent spike during that time in Mecosta County. The two with declining caseloads are Crawford and Wexford counties, according to statistics released by the department.
Kalkaska County has had a 40 percent increase in cases during that time, while Manistee County experienced a 55 percent spike, according to District No. 10.
Additionally, hospitalizations are increasing, Khaldun said, as are the average number of deaths per day — up from nine to 15 in the last 30 days. Khaldun said local health departments are dealing with 393 ongoing outbreaks in Michigan, most in long-term healthcare facilities, schools, social gatherings and churches.
Khaldun said Michiganders should “not feel helpless.”
“We have what it takes to get control of this virus. We’ve done it before,” she said.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer echoed Khaldun’s statements during the press conference and addressed the “narrow, party-line” 4-3 decision by the Michigan Supreme Court that struck down her executive orders she put in place to “save lives.”
Whitmer reported Michigan is at a higher peak of positive cases now than the peak in April, all but confirming the predicted second wave. Whitmer said more people will get sick, be hospitalized and die because of COVID-19.
“This virus is not done with us yet. The virus doesn’t care about a Supreme Court decision. The virus doesn’t care which side of the aisle you are on or what political party you support,” Whitmer said. “None of us is safe from this virus.”
Whitmer also said the Supreme Court decision should not stop people from taking the same precautions they did when the executive orders were in place — wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands. She also urged people to get a flu shot.
Whitmer declined to specifically answer a question about the potential of a shutdown, but she said her administration is “sounding the alarm bell, right now” to get positive cases back under control.
“The good news is we know what it’s going to take. We’ve done this. We crushed the curve in the spring,” she said.
Public health officials across northern Lower Michigan this week announced a series of possible public exposure sites for the contagious novel coronavirus.
The times and places of concern include:
- Bootlegger’s, Traverse City: Oct. 10-11 from 4:30 p.m. to 3 a.m., Oct. 11 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and both Oct. 12-13 and 13-14 from 4:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. both nights;
- Eastfield Laundry, Eighth Street in Traverse City: Oct. 12 from 9 to 11 a.m.;
- Espresso Bay, downtown Traverse City: Oct. 12, 13 and 14 from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. all three days;
- Charlevoix State Bank, downtown Charlevoix: Oct. 13 and 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. both days, Oct. 15 from 7 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., and Oct. 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.
- Sweet Pea, Traverse City: Oct. 13, 15, 16 and 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. all four days;
- Charlevoix Fitness Center, Charlevoix: Oct. 15 from 3:45 to 4:30 p.m., and Oct. 16 from 2:15 to 3:30 p.m.;
- Grand Traverse Pie Company, Part Street in Traverse City: Oct. 16 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.;
- Ace Hardware, Charlevoix: Oct. 16 from 6:15 to 6:45 p.m.;
- Mundo’s Roasting & Co., Boon Street in Traverse City: Oct. 17 from 8 to 11 a.m.;
- Garden Theater, Frankfort: Oct. 17 and 18;
- Jay’s Sporting Goods, Gaylord: Oct. 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and,
- Meijer pharmacy, Gaylord: Oct. 20 from 12 to 12:30 p.m.
Medical officials encourage anyone present during those times at those places to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, particularly if not wearing a mask or practicing physical distancing. They may have been exposed to somebody who was at the time contagious with coronavirus.
Those self-monitoring are meant to keep away from the public, family, close contacts and roommates as much as possible, officials said.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, repeated shaking with chills, headache, sore throat and a new loss of taste or smell.