Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

WUPHD: Report of Ontonagon County coronavirus case incorrect


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HANCOCK -- It appears reports of the first presumed positive coronavirus case in Ontonagon County on the state of Michigan’s COVID-19 reporting website is incorrect, according to a Western Upper Peninsula Health Department announcement Sunday.

The error appears to stem from a former Ontonagon resident who was tested in southeast Michigan but no longer resides in the county.

“We’re not sure if they moved or what, but it wasn’t a test that was done in this area,” health officer Cathryn Beer told the Daily Globe Monday. “Even if it was a positive, the person doesn’t live here.”

“That’s what we’re thinking, that it’s just somebody that moved and just didn’t update their address on their driver’s license or something yet,” she continued.

She said the health department is working to track the case down and notify the correct health department.

The error doesn’t mean the coronavirus isn’t present in Ontonagon County, according to Beer, as community spread remains a possibility. She said it’s hard to tell whether it’s here given the limited number of tests the region can perform.

“It is a concern of ours that we’re just not testing enough people, because of the priority level — as they bring more testing online, I would hope they would open those priorities up a bit,” Beer said.

With the inability to conduct the surveillance for the virus’ presence in the region, Beer stressed the importance of social distancing.

“That’s the only tool in our toolbox at the moment,” she said.

With the Ontonagon case excluded, there were a total of four cases Saturday in the five counties the health department serves. A report of a second positive case in Houghton County is also incorrect, according to Saturday’s report.

Of the four cases in Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties, three are in Gogebic County, including the region’s only fatality from the virus.

There have been a total of 55 people referred for testing in Gogebic County, according to Saturday’s report. One of those tests was canceled, according to the report, and 12 tests are still pending. Thirteen people have been referred for testing in Ontonagon County, with two canceled tests, nine negatives and two pending tests.

The health department reports 184 total cases referred for testing as of Saturday, with 15 canceled tests, 111 negatives and 54 pending tests in addition to the four positives.

Canceled tests are usually from early in the testing process, according to Saturday’s report, and could include cases where a health care provider decided against submitting the test due to confirmation of a different illness through other diagnostic procedures or other reasons a test wasn’t submitted to a testing facility.

Although Beer doesn’t expect the testing criteria to be loosened in the coming weeks, she said she hopes testing in the western U.P. becomes more widespread once additional labs are brought online.

The health department continues to encourage people to stay home as much as possible, especially if sick, to wash their hands frequently, avoid close contact with sick people, disinfect common surfaces, avoid touching the face or shaking hands and observing social distancing recommendations.

A local COVID-19 informational call line is available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. EST to 4 p.m. EST at 906-487-5545. There is a state informational hotline available from 8 a.m. EST to 5 p.m. EST seven days per week. That number is 1-888-535-6136. Additional information on COVID-19 can be found on the MDHHS website,, or the CDC website,