Health officials in Calhoun County are reporting a recent surge in COVID-19 cases over the past three weeks, something the rest of Lower Michigan hasn’t seen so far.

Calhoun County Public Health Department Health Officer Eric Pessell and Calhoun County Medical Director Dr. William Nettleton were part of the COVID-19 Joint Information Center Briefing on Wednesday, October 14th.

Pessell said they’ve had 597 positive COVID-19 cases referred since September 22nd. That’s the highest level of transmission and more than double the rate since the peak in April and May.

One thing that contact tracers at the Health Department have been doing is keeping track of symptoms reported by those who test positive.   Pessell noted that fever was actually down to fifth on the list, with only about half reporting a fever.   Cough was the most reported symptom at 72%.  Fatigue/lethargy/weakness, headaches, and muscle aches were all a more common indicator than fever.   If you have any of those symptoms, Pessell says it’s important not to come to work, and go and get tested.

Calhoun County COVID-19 Symptoms
Calhoun County COVID-19 Symptoms

Complicating things are the fact that many people testing positive believed they had fall allergies.  The symptoms can match COVID-19 symptoms.  Pessell asks that people who believe they may have allergy flare-ups should also stay home and get tested.

Dr. Nettleton said that their data shows three common outbreak/cluster categories that have led to the surge in Calhoun County.

  • These include weddings, anniversary parties, and birthday parties.
  • Long-term care facilities.
  • Worksites

Dr. Nettleton also said one of the greatest risks for transmission is from who you live with.  He says you’re in close quarters, without wearing masks.

Dr. Nettleton said one encouraging thing they’ve seen happening is that a third of the new cases are being detected during quarantine, which he says is exactly what they would hope to see.  But Dr. Nettleton says they are concerned that up to 40% of their cases don’t have a known exposure.

He says this could be a result of increased community transmission, as a result of gatherings.  Or it could be due to people not sharing the information with the Health Department.  It could also be due to reporting mechanisms.

Dr. Nettleton acknowledges that it’s hard to digest risk when there is such a wide range of how the disease presents itself so differently among different people.  But he says there are groups that we know are at greater risk, including those who are obese or have other underlying medical conditions, and also communities of color.

Dr. Nettleton says he realizes that social gatherings are part of being human.  But he says the data shows that social gatherings are putting our community at risk. “The individual decisions that we make as a member of our community affect those in our families, affect our friends, and therefore affect our entire community.”

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