NO, WE’RE NOT done with the first wave of the pandemic. Not even close.
No, the hot weather–as we had desperately hoped–is not making a dent in the COVID numbers.
No, the UP is not immune to the spread of COVID.
These are the unfortunate truths we face, backed up by stubborn and depressing facts. Namely:
Marquette County: In May we had only 6 new confirmed cases of COVID. In June, it rose to 18. So far in July, we’re already up to 24 new cases, and climbing daily.
“We have had tourism since Memorial Day along with a relaxation of caution as prominently displayed at McCarty’s Cove on July 4th,” says Dr. Kevin Piggott, the medical director of the Marquette County Health Department. “We are now reaping what has been sown.”
The Upper Peninsula: On June 11, we had 126 confirmed cases in the UP. The count as of Sunday? 339, almost a tripling of the cases in only six weeks.
Michigan: On June 15, the state registered only 74 new cases. We were ready to declare victory. Two days ago, we were back up to 678 cases statewide, and actually on July 15, we hit 891. Not even close to victory.
Nationwide, we all know the story. There are many more states with increasing numbers than with declining numbers, some governors are starting to shut things down again, and at the very least we can say there’s been a lack of urgency coming from the White House in the face of all these alarming statistics.
Yeah, the mortality rate from COVID is thankfully declining, doctors have come up with new, somewhat effective therapies, and a vaccine may be on the way within 6-8 months, but in the meantime, the cases are rising again, hospitals in some communities are filled to capacity…and it’s only going to get worse.
The fact is, we as a nation, and we in our local communities have not taken this seriously enough. We lost our patience, we got tired of sitting at home, wearing masks, and staying six feet away from each other. And now we’re paying the price.
CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield has said that if we as a nation–all of us–would commit to wearing a mask for the next 4-6 weeks, we could drive the pandemic to the ground. End it.
Dr. Piggott won’t go that far. “However, if we reduce our mobility and maintain six feet or more of physical distancing when we do have to leave our home, and wear masks,” he says, “then we can once again flatten and maybe start reducing this current upward sloped curve in 4-6 weeks.”
Of course, doctors and medical researchers have been denigrated by some politicians for getting their facts wrong earlier in the pandemic.
They did, but as eminent economist John Maynard Keynes once reportedly said when he was confronted with inconsistencies in his work, “When facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
Scientists, doctors, and health care workers are doing their best to fight a vicious, nearly invisible enemy. The least we can do is wear a mask, maintain distance from each other, avoid large gatherings, and show some patience and courage.
Otherwise we’ll face the consequences, even here in the UP.
Final question for Dr. Piggott: “Could this pandemic last through the summer…into the fall…and the winter?”
His response: “Yes, yes, and yes it could.”