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Frank A. Douglass Insurance Agency

Local COVID Numbers Explode as Hospitals Across the State Fill

The COVID-19 numbers in the Western Upper Peninsula have taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

Last night’s update from the Western U.P. Health Department includes a whopping 229 new positive cases confirmed across the five-county region since the last report was released late Monday. An additional 50 probable cases are also reported.

83 of the confirmed positives are in Houghton County. Baraga County has 64. Gogebic County has 49, Ontonagon County 27, and Keweenaw County has six.

Five new deaths have been added, with two in Ontonagon County, two in Gogebic County, and one in Baraga County.

Baraga County is now the state’s hardest-hit, with a seven-day rolling average of 158 diagnoses per 100,000 residents per day. 

Even though our region is especially hard-hit, the entire state has been swept up in the latest spike. Nearly 7,000 cases were confirmed across Michigan just yesterday, with another 49 deaths.

Speaking to the state yesterday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer noted that the national death toll is now averaging more than 1,000 per day…

“Try to imagine 10 737 airplanes crashing to the ground every single day. That’s what we’re facing – a 9/11 every three days.”

Whitmer said the dramatic rise is taking a toll on our healthcare system…

“Hospitals are nearing capacity, and they are burning through PPE, that’s the masks and gloves we’ve been working to stockpile. They’re burning through it because they are overwhelmed.”

The rising infection rates in our communities are sidelining some of the people we need most…

“More of our nurses and health care professionals are getting sick outside of work, which means more hospitals are facing serious staffing shortages.”

UP Health System CEO Gar Atchison was among a group of five hospital leaders who also carried that message to Michigan residents yesterday. Michigan Health and Hospital Association CEO Brian Peters said hospitals are filling up at a rapid rate. Spectrum Health, which operates hospitals in the western Lower Peninsula, anticipates reaching capacity this weekend, and is beginning to postpone non-essential surgical procedures.

Locally, Western U.P. Health Officer Kate Beer says we’re not that close to capacity, yet…

“On any given day we have between three and seven people that are hospitalized for COVID-related issues.”

But, with limited beds in the region, there’s concern about where we would send victims for care if our hospitals do fill up…

“Wisconsin numbers are extremely high. The transfer capacity for Wausau is extremely limited right now, and they’ve opened up a field hospital in Medford.”

Atchison has the same concern for UP Health System-Marquette…

“We are the safety net hospital for the Upper Peninsula, so it is a concern of us when we hit capacity, downstate are full – what’s going to happen then?

Beer says the solutions are the same as they’ve always been – we just need to use them…

“Washing your hands, and not going to work when you’re sick – that’s been a big one recently that we’ve seen, is people that are working sick. Wearing a mask can be controversial, but it really does help with spreading the virus within closer settings. And, small gatherings are really a must. We can’t keep having huge funerals, weddings, or other social gatherings.”

You can hear Todd VanDyke’s full discussion with Beer on this Sunday’s Copper Country Today program.

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