Dr. Piggott: Upper Michigan is weeks behind Lower Michigan in COVID-19 outbreak

This is an example of one COVID-19 model for Marquette County (Source: Covidactnow/Marquette...
This is an example of one COVID-19 model for Marquette County (Source: Covidactnow/Marquette County Health Department) (WLUC)
Published: Apr. 17, 2020 at 5:57 PM EDT
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compared to Lower Michigan, the medical director of the Marquette County Health Department is warning against prematurely loosening economic restrictions in Upper Michigan.

"We have not even yet begun to substantially see an increase in our numbers," said Dr. Kevin Piggott.

Dr. Piggott says while Marquette County reports only about one new COVID-19 case a day, it's still early.

"We are likely weeks behind what has taken place in Lower Michigan, and for us to open up at this point in time, we may see our numbers increase substantially," he said.

Dr. Piggott pointed to one model that shows a prediction of what could occur with COVID-19 hospitalizations in Marquette County. He compared it to a weather model used by a meteorologist. There are other models, and this is one example.

"These models are used to help us understand what may occur regarding COVID-19," he said. "However, what actually occurs may certainly be different."

The salmon curve shows a spike in cases if all restrictions are lifted. The green curve shows cases rising if stay home restrictions are lax, the curve nearing the county capacity of hospital beds. The small teal curve shows minimal cases if stay home restrictions are strict.

"I'm using this really as an example of addressing why it is important that we don't loosen the restrictions too quickly," Dr. Piggott said.

Dr. Piggott says he respects concerns about the economy, however, he wants people to remember that COVID-19 is a deadly, highly contagious disease.

"Although we're talking about area under the curve, we're actually talking about people and we're talking about peoples' health, and some of these people who are hospitalized are going to die."

Dr. Piggott says his team looks for clusters of the outbreak. He says 20 of Marquette County's 29 positive cases are are epidemiologically linked to a single cluster at Norlite Nursing Center. Many of the other nine cases have a likely source of exposure occurring out of state.

"I think in Marquette County we are doing well," said Piggott. "Our numbers are small. I think we really are probably more on this teal or maybe the green one, but we're so early yet that those have not distinguished themselves."

Dr. Piggott urges people to strictly follow the stay home order.

"If you look at these predictions, you'll see that the peak for even just the three-month lax scenario is not until mid June."

Dr. Piggott says the county is working to get its testing sites listed on the

Dr. Piggott says the health department continues to hear many in the community believe that testing for COVID-19 illness is not occurring, and that simply is not true.

He says the Marquette County Health Department is aware of at least 540 tests that have been ordered in Marquette County. This number underestimates the actual number since the health department does not always receive notification that a test has been performed.

The video of the full interview with Dr. Piggott is below.