The county’s medical director offers comfort and caution
SO NOW THAT we’re starting to open the UP up for business again, where do we stand medically in Marquette County?
Officially, we’ve recorded just over 50 confirmed cases and 10 deaths, although the actual numbers are likely higher. Still those statistics are encouraging, much better than many had feared just a month or two ago. Apparently our deliberate social distancing and the natural sparseness of population here have served us well.
Good news, it seems. But we had to ask Dr. Kevin Piggott, the medical director of the Marquette County Health Department…Have we made sufficient progress? Are we out of the woods yet?
Can we safely start reopening businesses here?
A Maybe from Dr. Piggott with one major concern.
- Federal guidelines say, before reopening, we must see a downward trajectory in documented cases over 14 days OR a downward trajectory of positive cases as a percent of all tests given over a 14 day period. Marquette County qualifies on both counts.
- Additionally, the county’s medical system must be able once again to treat all patients, including those without COVID-19. With UPHS telling us they have no more COVID-19 patients, again Marquette County seems to have passed the test.
- And finally, a robust testing program must be in place for at-risk health care workers, including emerging antibody testing. Here, Dr. Piggott is less confident.
“Turnaround time on tests is still problematic…” he reports. “Marquette County continues to see that there can be delays of greater than a week…The knowledge base behind serology of COVID-19 is still developing, and the accuracy of serologic tests has been problematic…There is concern that a robust testing process in the community is not present despite continued efforts by the Marquette County Health Department to assure such…”
Aside from the outbreak at the Norlite Nursing Center, it appears that there’s been very little spread of COD-19 here. Correct?
“Yes, the majority of the cases outside the cluster have been contained,” Dr. Piggott says.
Dr. Piggott is the medical director for the Marquette County Health Department.
Can schools open safely in the fall?
A qualified Yes. NMU has said it will reopen, though details are still being worked out.
Marquette Area Public Schools are now working on their plans, as well.
“The Marquette County Health Department had been in contact with school superintendents early in the COVID-19 outbreak,” he says, “and anticipates being asked to meet with them again this fall, as well.”
Are you concerned about children getting the infections here?
“U.S. physicians, health care workers, and medical researchers are still learning about Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory syndrome…No question it is a concerning development in the unfolding of COVID-19,” Dr. Piggott says.
Can we safely engage in some types of outdoor recreation now?
Maybe, but here Dr. Piggott is less than specific. He won’t outright tell us that walking, hiking, biking, boating and camping are safe. What he does say is this:
“The time of exposure of one person to another has to be kept to a minimum and preferably no exposure at all. Physical distancing is important and the further the separation the better. There is nothing magic about six feet…Unfortunately, you cannot rely on simply avoiding ‘sick’ people. It has clearly been shown that some people spread infection and yet remain without symptoms throughout their infection…”
In other words, engage in outside recreation carefully and at your own risk.
Is there a serious risk if we “open” prematurely?
An unqualified Yes.
Regardless, Governor Whitmer has given the go-ahead to reopen restaurants and retail shops, with restrictions, starting Friday, in the UP and the northern Lower Peninsula.
We should know within a few weeks whether the reopening was premature or prudent.