Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

COVID continues to spread locally


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As the number of local cases of COVID-19 continues to climb, local health officials continue to warn residents about the need to contain the spread of the virus.

The Iron County Health Department announced additional possible exposure sites, while the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department joined with the other five health departments across the U.P. to warn residents of rising infection rates across the region.

“In the past few weeks, the Upper Peninsula has seen a dramatic increase in positive cases of COVID-19. The region has gone from being considered ‘low risk’ for infection to ‘medium risk’ and moving towards ‘high risk,’” a spokesperson said in the joint statement. “Infection rates have increased from 2 to 4 cases per million population per day to 32 (cases per million) through (Friday) for the U.P. overall.”

Gogebic County and the other counties bordering Wisconsin are particularly singled out as being “especially hard hit.”

Gogebic County had a total of 51 positive cases and six probable cases as of Sunday, according to data on the state’s website. The state’s website lists two confirmed cases and one probable case in Ontonagon County.

The sudden rise in cases can be attributed to multiple factors, according to the statement, “including an influx of people from outside the area who have brought the virus with them.”

U.P. residents have also been moving more, health officials said, as collected data from cell phone movements show U.P. residents have increased mobility more than those downstate.

“This may account for why people in the Upper Peninsula who test positive for COVID-19 are reporting more close contacts than those testing positive in the Lower Peninsula,” a spokesperson said. “Upper Peninsula residents have been lulled into a false sense of security because our region was ‘low risk’ until just recently. It seems that many people are being less cautious by ignoring 6-foot distancing and not wearing a mask in public.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently mandated wearing masks in public.

As the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to spread locally and a possible rise in the number of infections is anticipated, the health officials stressed that limiting travel is as important, if not more so, than it was in April and May.

Across the state border in Iron County, health officials announced the county’s total number of cases rose by 13 over the weekend, bringing the number of cases to 57 since the presence of the coronavirus was confirmed there in late March. The 13 doesn’t include four visitors from out of state who are being quarantined after testing positive, an Iron County Health Department spokesperson said.

Health department officials also announced two new sites where they confirmed people who were positive for COVID-19 were at where people may have been exposed.

According to the health department, they confirmed there were positive patrons at Around the Corner Pub in Mercer between noon and 2 p.m. on July 21 and at Rugger’s Landing in Mercer from 6 to 11 p.m. on July 15.

Iron County officials are also asking anyone who participated in recent testing events in Hurley and Mercer to answer phone calls from the 608 area code as the results are beginning to arrive from the test sites.

Staff will attempt to call those who got tested three times from a number with a 608 area code to inform the person of the test results.

Along with staying home as much as possible and not traveling, health officials in both states continue to urge people to properly wash their hands, wear masks or face coverings and follow proper social distancing practices.