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WUPHD health officer updates county

Kate Beer of the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department updated the Houghton County Board on precautions being taken for the COVID-19 virus.

Two people in the western Upper Peninsula have been tested for the coronavirus, said Beer, health officer at WUPHD. No cases have been confirmed in the U.P. Dwonstate, two cases have been confirmed in Oakland and Wayne counties. Ninety-one poeople had tested negative statewide as of Wednesday, with another 28 pending.

“The reason that the health department is contacted when there’s testing involved is so that we can do any monitoring or contact tracing,” Beer said.

Statewide, 520 people have been referred for assessment or monitoring. Of those, 150 are under active monitoring.

Beer said the shortfall in testing isn’t due to lack of supplies – mainly items such as swabs any medical facility would have on hand. Instead it has been a lack of processing ability at labs.

As processing capacity increases, Beer hopes some will be able to be processed at commercial labs in the area, such as Quest Diagnostics in Marquette.

The health department is working with local health partners, colleges and schools, Beer said. She spent Tuesday meeting with school administrators and hospital administrators.

Michigan Technological University and Finlandia University have announced they are moving to online classes and discouraging gatherings of more than 25 people. Finlandia is also closing its residence hall and canceling spring sports.

“It’s just a precaution,” she said. “We’ve got a bunch of kids that are on spring break. We don’t know where they’ve been, where they’re coming from … right now, prevention and mitigation is still the public health response to this issue.”

The best things for people to do right now is wash their hands, or stay home if they’re sick, Beer said.

Employers should be sure to have some human resource policy where people can work from home if they’re sick.

People concerned they may have coronavirus are asked to call their health care provider, Beer said. They may ask questions about travel history that are pertinent to the situation. Some concerns could just be the flu, which is still widespread across Michigan, Beer said.

“It’s when you become symptomatic – the fever, the rough cough, the respiratory distress, the shortness of breath, that’s when we get concerned – who have you been in contact with? Where did you travel?” she said.

For more information, go to wupdhd.org.

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