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New COVID-19 positive in Houghton County

HANCOCK — A new case of COVID-19 in Houghton County was announced Wednesday related to one of the cases announced last week. 

With most of the contract tracing completed, the six new cases of COVID-19 reported in Houghton County last week did not appear to have initiated any community spread, Western Upper Peninsula Health Department Health Officer Kate Beer said Wednesday. 

There have been nine positives in Houghton County, including two people from out of the area. They will be leaving the Copper Country soon, at which point they will not be reported in the WUPHD totals, Beer said. 

Results will be announced on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays now, unless there is a new positive result, Beer said. 

Houghton County passed the 1,000-test mark Wednesday, with 1,044 tests announced as of Wednesday. There have been 1,893 tests in the WUPHD’s five-county area. 

The WUPHD reaches out to people who have been in close contact with people who test positive and advise them to get tested. Most people have been good about answering their phones or responding later, Beer said. 

“We usually leave a number to call back with the health department,” she said. “I think people are concerned enough with their health that they call back.”

The WUPHD would like to see testing levels rise, though it has yet to hear a guideline on testing numbers from the state. Frequent testing helps the WUPHD stay on top of any potential outbreak, Beer said. 

“Once somebody tests negative, it doesn’t mean they’re not going to be exposed again, so we need to continue to test,” she said. 

With the aid of the Michigan National Guard, the WUPHD conducted tests in correctional facilities and local nursing homes. All tests came back negative. 

Beer said they are working with community partners to see what future rounds of testing might look like.

Nursing homes are under more orders from CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) to do more testing of employees and staff. 

People in long-term care facilities have staff who can assist with the swab process, making it easier than at the county jail, Beer said.  

“We’re trying to work with them to see what kind of a scenario works best for everybody,” she said.

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