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Rate of new coronavirus cases puts Houghton County in ‘very high risk’ category

The Western U.P. Health Department says the spike is tied to the start of classes at Michigan Tech.
A coronavirus testing sign on the Michigan Tech campus in Houghton.
A coronavirus testing sign on the Michigan Tech campus in Houghton.(WLUC)
Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 7:49 AM EDT
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HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - Houghton County’s infection rate puts it in the highest risk level for coronavirus spread in Michigan, state data shows.

Western U.P. Health Department Health Officer Kate Beer says her department includes probable cases when it looks at numbers. Houghton County is reporting 196.4 daily cases per million people when probable cases are included on the MI Safe Start Map. This statistic used by epidemiologists to compare regions is actually an improvement from ten days ago. The county hit 353.6 daily cases per million people on Sept. 4.

MI Safe Start Map data for Houghton County, Sept. 15.
MI Safe Start Map data for Houghton County, Sept. 15.(WLUC)

Beer says the spike is tied to the start of classes at Michigan Tech University, where there are cases in both on and near-campus living situations. Click here for the latest testing statistics from Michigan Tech, which show 90 cases detected in 1,240 tests in the past 14 days - a 7.26% positive rate - as of Monday afternoon.

At-risk are congregate living settings such as dorms, fraternities, sororities, and other multiple roommate settings. Representatives from Michigan Tech have been helpful in assisting the WUPHD with contact tracing and providing additional resources to students as they are placed in isolation and quarantine. The health department is closely monitoring cases and testing capacity in an effort to make sure that the outbreak does not spread to the general community. Michigan Tech has established isolation housing for some students.

Houghton County has reported a total of 181 positive cases during the outbreak. There are 53 active cases in the county. That’s the number of confirmed and probable cases that WUPHD is currently monitoring. Those cases are in the two-week or more monitoring window or longer if they are not well. There are 55 cases considered recovered. One person has died. Hospitalizations remain very low, state data shows.

Beer says keeping the K-12 school system safe and open is also a priority. The health department is encouraging all students to wear proper masks - even in districts where they aren’t required - and adhere to social distancing measures put in place at each school. The WUPHD continues to meet regularly with school administrators and discuss risk and safety concerns.

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