LAPEER COUNTY — COVID-19 case numbers continue to surge and health officials believe virus variants are playing a role in the uptick.
As of Monday morning, 37 confirmed cases were hospitalized locally with six individuals in the intensive care unit and four requiring a ventilator. Lapeer County is now ranked sixth in the state for daily new cases per 100,000; 11th for positive test rates and has the 12th highest infection rate in Michigan.
Lapeer County Health Department Director Kathy Haskins notes the number of confirmed virus variants has grown exponentially.
One week ago, the first three B117 variants were confirmed and as of March 29, that number had climbed to 23 total. Since then the first case of the B1351, or South African variant has been confirmed.
“These variants are concerning because they are associated with increased transmissibility, leading to faster spread of the virus and potentially increasing numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Lapeer County, as well as many parts of the state have experienced rising cases of COVID-19 over the past several weeks,” Haskins wrote in her Monday report.
“It is imperative that we continue to take precautions when out and about, and get vaccinated as soon as you are able, to minimize both the known serious consequences of COVID-19 infections, as well as the overall impacts on our limited healthcare resources. Efforts to slow transmission will allow for more of our population to be protected through vaccination.”
Between March 23-29, Lapeer County recorded 484 new cases and four additional deaths. The number of new cases is double of that from the prior week. Lapeer County now has 5,372 confirmed cases and 129 deaths.
The health department, local pharmacies and other authorized providers continue to offer the COVID-19 vaccine. Those eligible to register for the vaccine at this time include healthcare workers, individuals age 50 and above, caregivers of children with special health care needs, and those 16-49 with disabilities/pre-existing conditions.
All Michigan residents 16 years and older are eligible to be vaccinated starting April 5 and in anticipation of that date, the Lapeer County Health Department is making plans to host a COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Tuesday, April 13 for 16 and 17-year-olds only. This clinic will run from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. To date, the health department has only been administering the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines but for this clinic they’ll partner with another agency to make the Pfizer vaccine available. Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for use in individuals 16 and 17 years-old.
To register for this clinic and all others, visit www.lapeercountyweb.org to complete the online form.
New tool utilized
Haskins also wants the public to know about a new case investigation tool, called Patient Education Genius (PEG) that their department is now using.
When someone tests positive for COVID-19, PEG will text the individual with a link to a questionnaire.
“By filling out this questionnaire it will greatly reduce the time needed to follow up with the individual. After completing the form, the case investigator will call you to make sure the isolation timelines are clear and answer any questions,” Haskins said.
Those unable to use PEG can call the main line at the health department, 810-667-0448, to be connected with a case investigator.
“By having a connection at the health department, you will have someone who can be a resource to you during your illness. Your investigator can be a great resource for you. Please help us roll out PEG by responding to the text that you receive.”