Signage tells the story of local efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus. At top, a posting at Imlay City’s Silver Grill and at bottom, a reminder of service cancellations at Capac’s St. Nicholas Catholic Church.

Schools, businesses shuttered; public events shut down in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19


TRI-CITY AREA — Closed. Canceled. Postponed.

In the wake of a coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak in Michigan and across the United States, nearly all public spaces have been ordered to close and public events have been postponed or canceled in the Tri-City area in hopes of preventing the highly contagious virus from spreading. As of Tuesday morning, March 17, there were two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in St. Clair County and none yet reported in Lapeer County. Statewide, there were 65 confirmed cases Tuesday.

The St. Clair County Health Department announced Thursday, March 12, they had identified their first presumptive positive COVID-19 case, a middle-aged adult male. A second person, an older female and “household contact” of the county’s first case, was identified as being the county’s next presumptive positive case on Monday.

“The individual took appropriate precautions and had minimal community interaction,” officials said.

Late on Monday, Lapeer County Health Department Director Kathy Haskins said they still didn’t have a confirmed case but they expect that to change.

Haskins said at this time, they can’t give an accurate number as to how many Lapeer County residents have been tested.

“Originally, only the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) did testing. Then the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services was doing testing, and for those we knew. However, since testing expanded to some private labs this past week, they are only required to report positive test results. Thus, we do not have an accurate count,” Haskins said.

She said residents who may be experiencing symptoms of the virus are being urged to call their physician, an urgent care clinic or hospital before going out to seek medical treatment or testing.

“Our staff has information to assist health care providers with the testing process and with mailing specimens into the state if they choose that route,” Haskins added.

On Friday, Lapeer County declared a Local State of Emergency.

Lapeer County Emergency Management Director, Mary Piorunek, and Lapeer County Board of Commissioner Chairman, Gary Roy, made the announcement through a press release.

Though no confirmed cases of the virus had been identified at the time of the declaration, Piorunek and Roy warned that the county is not immune from the potential of such occurrences happening

“This declaration will allow us to leverage any resources we may need to request from the State, allowing us to quickly assist our residents should the coronavirus spread to our community,” the pair stated in a press release.

Piorunek and Roy advised that the public stay alert to the symptoms of COVID-19; which include a fever of of 100.4 degrees or higher; a cough and/or shortness of breath.
Haskins said Lapeer County has limited some of their services including Senior Program meals, administering immunizations and prioritization of food service establishment inspections.
“Congregate meals and senior center activities have been closed at this time through April 5. Seniors who normally attended these meals are able to request home delivered meals if desired by contacting senior programs at 810-245-5866,” Haskins said.
Late last week, St. Clair County officials starting urging residents to utilize online services whenever possible and have offered the following directive for those calling 911 or Central Dispatch.
“You will be asked if you have a fever, cough or are short of breath. Should this apply, you may be asked to come out of your residence to meet first responders. This will insure the safety of both the public and first responders,” officials said.

On Monday, county officials said that the Treasurers and Register of Deeds offices will begin serving residents by appointment only and that the Clerk’s office would accept documents for drop off service only.

The Council on Aging cancelled all events in the coming weeks but will continue their home delivered meals program. For more information, contact them at 810-987-8811.

Additionally, the county’s Michigan State University Cooperative Extension will close to the public. The office can be reached at 810-989-6935.
St. Clair County has a local COVID-19 informational hotline available at 810-966-4163. Residents can call and ask general questions regarding COVID-19 Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After hours, residents can leave a message and it will be returned the next business day.
•On Sunday, Maple Vista, one of Imlay City’s senior living communities, announced they would no longer allow visitors.
“Over the past couple of days, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have imposed more severe restrictions on visitations. Effective immediately, visits from family members, friends and non-essential health care personnel are no longer permitted,” they said.

Likewise, local hospitals, including McLaren Lapeer Region, have tightened their visitor allowances based upon each patient’s circumstances. All visitors will be required to comply with the hospital’s COVID-19 screening process.

•Many events, meetings, fundraisers, church services and the like have been canceled or, at the least, postponed until a later date. Residents are urged to call ahead or visit group’s social media accounts to determine what has or has not been canceled.

•Some event cancellations are extending beyond early April. The Lapeer County 4-H program has decided to postpone their Celebrity Autographed Items and Spring Auction set for April 17-18. Organizers said Michigan State University Extension has directed that meetings or events set to take place through April 20 in a confined space with 100-plus attendance be canceled or postponed.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.