The numbers have been climbing
IT DOESN’T SEEM to make sense.
The Upper Peninsula, we like to think, is a relatively COVID-free area, far away from the congested cities to the south. The positive rate (percent of tested people who come back positive) in Marquette County, for example, has been very low, only about 1.5%. And yet we hear this: The UP is now considered to be in the “Medium High Risk” category, moving possibly toward “High Risk.” What gives?
“Yes, 1.5 percent is low,” says Marquette County medical director Kevin Piggott, “but there are other factors that need to be considered.”
Here are the factors:
1) The percent of positive tests overall. Again, Marquette County and the UP as a whole score well here, but Dr. Piggott says this component is more a measure of the extent of testing. We’ve done well on getting people tested.
2) The percent of positive tests in the previous seven days.
3) The number of new cases per million population. A troublesome number for us. The UP has only about 320,000 people, so when we start adding 10 or 15 or 20 new cases a day, that becomes a problem.
4) The overall number of new cases. On Thursday, we added 24 new cases (mostly in Gogebic and Menominee Counties). That’s huge. Definitely High Risk territory.
5) The three day case surge.
It appears that summertime, vacations, tourism, and eased restrictions are playing a role in the recent surge.
“Yes, we have seen and are still seeing the effects of opening up,” says Dr. Piggott. “Whether you look at the national, state, UP, or local curve, you will see consistently that there has been increase in the number of cases as of mid-June.”
He suspects that we still haven’t seen the full effects of the 4th of July week because of the COVID incubation time, the fact that some people delay getting a test, and then the results from tests can sometimes take several days.
Something else we’ve noticed–in spite of the “surge” we’re experiencing here, our hospitals are not filling with COVID patients. So how is that explained?
“In July, the age group with the most cases is the 20-29 year olds,” says Dr. Piggott. “It’s known that the younger one is, the more likely the illness will be mild and thus less likely to result in hospitalization or death.”
That’s good news, but of course, those younger folks infected with COVID can pass it on to older and more vulnerable people.
Which brings us to the imminent arrival of up to 8000 people on the NMU campus for the fall semester. University president Fritz Erickson has laid out a detailed game plan for the semester, including COVID testing for all students and staff on the day of arrival. Sounds good–and Dr. Piggott believes it’s a sound plan–but what about the time lapse between taking the test…and getting the results. It might be two days, when students will naturally be congregating, maybe partying, right?
“I believe students will be requested to minimize mobility around the campus and community,” says Dr. Piggott, “assure physical distancing of six feet or more, avoid congregating, wear masks, and follow hygiene measures.”
That’s a lot to ask of young people, and requires a leap of faith by the rest of us.
If they fail at it, there seems little doubt: the UP, defying all expectations, will become “High Risk” territory.
Hawaii comes to the UP
ON A HAPPIER note…
How about Aloha Shaved Ice, that little tent on Third Street (just south of Third Street Bagel) that’s selling a Hawaiian treat that, trust us, is nothing like a snow cone.
It’s much finer, smoother, and tastier than a snow cone. And you can ask for it with a scoop of ice cream inside.
It comes to us compliments of Mitchell Kolowena, a Hawaiian native who arrived in the UP last year with his wife Ally, who’s from Marquette, and their son Kainoa.
“I want to introduce people here to shaved ice this summer,” says Mitchell, “but what I really want to do is open up a Hawaiian barbecue restaurant.” He’s looking for a place in town, nothing big, just enough for a kitchen and a few tables. Eat in or take out.
In the meantime, though, it’s shaved ice with literally dozens of flavors.
Rave reviews. The only problem so far? They’ve run out of ice a few times.