“WE HAVE TO create a whole new system. One of my colleagues said it’s like driving down the highway at 70 miles per hour and trying to fix the engine at the same time.”
That’s Dr. Kevin Piggott, the medical director for the Marquette County Health Department, describing the task they’re facing in preparing for an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Upper Peninsula.
They’re in daily, sometimes hourly, contact now with hospitals, clinics, and doctors, answering questions and providing support.
Two sets of good news in the last few days:
- Two commercial labs, LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, are now testing for the coronavirus, along with the state lab down in Lansing. Previously, only the state lab was certified to do the work.
- As of late Friday, there are still no cases of the virus reported in the Upper Peninsula. All identified cases have been downstate and in Wisconsin. A very limited number of swabs from Marquette County patients have been sent to the labs for testing, but so far, they have come back negative.
“We’re just ramping up our testing here,” says Dr. Piggott. “We don’t have an adequate sample, so we can’t really rely on our statistics yet.”
Dr. Piggott and other health professionals have been telling us for the last couple of weeks that it’s just a matter of time before cases are diagnosed in the U.P.
“We know they’re out there,” he emphasizes, “but we’re still at a point where if we take the right steps, we can still make a difference.”
The right steps, of course, created the New Normal we’re facing. Cancellations, postponements, limited social activities, avoidance of crowds, frequent hand-washing.
If you’re feeling sick, call your doctor or clinic ahead of time, and get advice from them. Don’t just show up. They’ll advise you what to do. The last thing we need is our doctors, nurses, and technicians getting sick–to say nothing of hospital patients who are already in compromised health.
More than 80% of the cases present only mild, flulike symptoms. No need for hospitalization. Just rest at home.
More good news? According to Dr. Piggott, “dirty data” (data that is not statistically pure and reliable) tells us that no child under the age of ten has died from the coronavirus. Overwhelmingly, it’s old folks and those with underlying health problems.
And then there’s this, in the midst of these challenging times:
Digs in Marquette has opened up a pop-up food bank for those in need–namely people who will be losing their jobs or having their hours cut back in the days ahead.
Dis ‘n Dat, the thrift store in Gwinn, is collecting food donations, and then packing them into lunch bags for kids and families.
Eh Burger in Munising is offering students $1 box lunches including a burger or chicken, fries, a drink and cookie.
Jackson’s Pit in Negaunee is offering free sack lunches to kids starting Monday, no questions asked.
Our understanding is that the Negaunee, Ishpeming and Munising school districts will also be offering free lunches.
And no doubt, others will join in, maybe already have. This story is changing almost hourly.
Still, a major problem facing so many working parents is what to do with the youngsters who have to stay home, now that’s school’s been cancelled. No easy answers.
One WOTS reader suggested setting up a system in which the idled high school and college students might be able to watch over some of the kids.
Other suggestions we’ve received? Get the old hospital cleaned up and ready for a possible overflow of patients at the new hospital.
Or how about this? Set up a central phone number that people can call when they have any questions–health, kids, jobs, unemployment, food, eviction–and need some help during a stressful time. It could be manned by volunteers.
Other suggestions circulating on social media and certainly worth our consideration: Buy gift certificates from your favorite restaurants to help keep them afloat at a time when their business will almost certainly suffer. And if you bought tickets for performances that have now been cancelled, don’t ask for your money back. Those groups, too, need the money or they might not survive.
And check regularly on your elderly and sick friends and relatives.
It’s the New Normal. Uncomfortable and unsettling, yes, but also an opportunity to strengthen our bonds as a community.
Skeptics might say this is all overreaction. Could be, but probably not, and in any case, it’s certainly better to overreact in a crisis than to underreact.
Final question: How long might this last? China’s crisis started in December and only now, three months later, are we hearing that it’s passed its peak. Case numbers are dropping steadily.
So a three month crisis here? We don’t know. That’s the unsettling part.