Gogebic COVID-19 count nears 100
August 7, 2020
By RICHARD JENKINS
HANCOCK — As the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to climb, local health officials are warning of high-risk exposure sites in Gogebic and Iron counties that may be partially responsible for the sharp increase in cases.
“The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department is raising concerns over recent case count increases in Gogebic County. Cases in Gogebic County have been steadily increasing, with over 90 cases reported in the last 30 days. Overall, numbers for the local health jurisdiction climbed by about 120 cases during that same period,” a WUPHD spokesperson said in a release Tuesday.
Gogebic County had 99 positive cases and six additional probable cases as of Wednesday afternoon, according to data on the state’s coronavirus website.
Ontonagon County has six positive cases and one probable Wednesday, according to state data; with the five-county region of Gogebic, Ontonagon, Houghton, Keweenaw and Baraga counties the health department serves having a total of 154 positive cases and 15 additional probables.
With 38 positive and probable cases in the last seven days, Gogebic County continues to have the highest rate of new infections per capita in the state when measured in cases per 100,000 people, according to data from the New York Times.
The spokesperson said health department staff have traced Gogebic County COVID-19 exposures to people at a softball tournament in Marensico on the weekend of July 17-19 and another tournament in Mercer, Wisconsin, on Aug. 1-2, as well as the Chairman’s Open Golf Tournament in Watersmeet on July 25.
“Cases have also been traced to attendees at other large gatherings such as weddings and funerals,” the spokesperson said.
There are a variety of reasons these type of large events can increase a person’s risk of exposure, according to the health department. Spending time outdoors in large groups can make social distancing difficult to maintain, these type of events often have people who aren’t in the same household interacting and can make contact tracing difficult, and the events may include people who are unaware they are infected as some studies show up to 40% of infected people can be asymptomatic.
“While we recognize it is summer and people want to be traveling and socializing, it is critical for individuals to make good choices regarding social events and large gatherings. It is also important for us to work towards prevention by wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing,” said Kate Beer, the health officer for the WUPHD. “Contact tracing also plays a critical role in containing an outbreak. People can help by providing health officials with accurate information regarding close contacts in recent days.
Anyone who has attended one of the tournaments or other large gathering recently — or had close contact with someone at such an event — and developed symptoms such as cough, fever, shortness of breath, or loss of taste or smell, is asked to isolate themselves and contact their health care provider to inform them of a potential exposure to the coronavirus.
In Wisconsin, Iron County health department officials said the county had a total of 74 COVID-positive residents and seven non-residents who had tested positive for the virus, as of Wednesday. Of the 74 residents, 63 are considered recovered and only three ever required hospitalization. There have ben 1,157 negative tests in the county.
Ashland County announced its first death linked to the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday. No information regarding the person was released out of respect for the family’s privacy, according to a news release from the Ashland County Department of Health and Human Services.
Health officials in both states encourage people to continue to wear masks or face coverings, avoid traveling and stay home as much as possible, wash their hands and continue to practice social distancing as ways to halt the spread of the virus.