By RICHARD JENKINS
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase in the region so has the death toll.
Gogebic County has had a total of 259 positive cases and 110 probables since the virus was first confirmed locally in March, according to Saturday’s update of Michigan’s coronavirus website. Those numbers include three deaths of those who were confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19 and two more people who were probable for having the virus.
These numbers are an increase from the Western U.P. Health Department’s Friday report of 235 positives and 108 probables, with two deaths. The WUPHD’s total of 343 cases in the county Friday included 143 active cases.
Ontonagon County has had a total of 81 confirmed cases and 10 additional probables as of Saturday, according to the state website.
There’s no single event that the recent rise in local cases can be attributed to, according to WUPHD officials.
“It’s just general population movement, it’s just general community spread,” WUPHD Health Officer Kate Beer told the Daily Globe.
She did note, however, that health officials across the Upper Peninsula were seeing school sports as one way the virus was spreading.
The Iron County Health Department announced it is offering several free COVID-19 testing events in partnership with the Wisconsin National Guard at the Hurley Fire Hall on 5th Avenue. The first is today from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with future events set for Nov. 10 and Dec. 8.
These events are open to everyone, according to a flyer for the testing events.
Winter brings new challenges
Beer said the WUPHD was looking into testing events but the arrival of snow and cold weather limited where they could offer such an event.
“The weather makes it a little more difficult, we really need the right facility to do that,” Beer said.
Ideally a facility would be able to accommodate one or two lands of drive-thru traffic, according to Beer.
“If anybody has a building available, let us know,” she said, adding the department was also considering facilities as hosts for clinics distributing flu shots and a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available.
Winter also adds the concern that the virus will spread further as people are no longer able to have events outside.
“You can’t just bring a bunch of people indoors and expect there not to be transmission,” Beer said.
With Halloween, deer camp and Thanksgiving all approaching, Beer recognizes people will likely be getting together.
“We’re in a season now where people like to gather,” she said, noting those gatherings make it difficult to social distance and keep transmissions down to a minimum. She encouraged people who do have gatherings to keep them small.
Officials in both states also continue to encourage people to wear a mask, practice social distancing as much as possible and frequently wash their hands.
“We need your help. Please: wear your masks, wash your hands frequently, keep your distance from others, and abide by individual quarantine recommendations,” Ironwood Superintendent Travis Powell wrote. “The only way we slow the spread of this illness is through cooperation and compliance with these simple rules.”