Western Upper Peninsula Health Department reports first COVID-19 related death

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GOGEBIC COUNTY, Mich. - (WLUC) Friday we've learned the Gogebic County man who died yesterday was waiting on results from a COVID-19 test.

"Our test results are still running several days behind what they're seeing down state so it does take us a little bit longer to get our positive results," said Kate Beer, Health Officer for the Western U.P. Health Department.

The Western U.P. Health Department says that's why the positive case was not reported before the man died. The department says he was elderly with underlying health issues.

The health department says it is waiting for more test results. As of yesterday, 78 people in the 5 counties the department covers have been tested. The Gogebic County man who died is the only positive case right now. 45 tests have come back negative, but 32 are pending.

"We are speaking with hospitals, clinics, and community leaders as far as how best we can prepare for an outbreak that's probably soon to come," said Beer.

Across the state line, Iron County Wisconsin also reported its first coronavirus case and death yesterday. No further information is available about that case. Wisconsin's governor says it's clear, the virus is in rural areas.

"We have several counties in northern Wisconsin where there hasn't been an identified positive COVID-19 case. That does not mean they don't exist, we had a death in Iron County yesterday one of the least populated counties," said Tony Evers, Governor of Wisconsin.

"It really pushes out an urgency for us to continue to follow the guidance of social distancing and making sure that we are protecting each other by staying away. This just brings the seriousness of this disease to the forefront," said Beer.

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The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department received notification of the first Upper Michigan death attributed to COVID-19, according to a press release sent out Thursday evening.

The individual was an elderly male Gogebic County resident with underlying health issues.

The Health Department continues to investigate the case.

"Our heartfelt sympathies and prayers go out to the family who have lost their loved one, " said Cathryn A. Beer, Health Officer at WUPHD. "This is a tragic reminder of how serious a threat COVID-19 is to our residents, especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

We need to work together to protect each other, support each other, and slow the spread of the disease."

TV6 & Fox UP will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.