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COVID-19 cases trending upward in Northwest Michigan schools

Health Department of Northwest Michigan

The number of COVID-19 cases detected in Northwest Michigan has increased over the last two weeks, the local health district said.

The increase is especially pronounced in school-age children, who account for almost one-quarter of the cases reported in the last two weeks, the Health Department of Northwest Michigan said in a news release.

Gaylord Community Schools, one of the school districts in the health department’s four-county territory, has noticed the increase, said Superintendent Brian Pearson.

Still, he said, the outbreaks are small and contained -- mostly within sports teams.

“We’re seeing an uptick, but it’s nothing to the point that would warrant closing down in-person instruction at this time,” Pearson said. “We have closed down some sports right now, to let those situations work themselves out.”

He said the district’s mitigation measures have prevented uncontrolled spread of the virus.

“I’m pretty confident in what we have going on right now as far as social distancing, wearing masks, keeping kids separated. We’ve been in this about a year, and those measures have proven to work very, very well.”

The health department encouraged people to continue following those guidelines, even as the state lifts restrictions on businesses and allows larger residential gatherings.

“Although progress has been made in reduction of hospitalizations, everyone should continue to do important things like wearing a mask, washing hands, avoiding large gatherings and getting one of the three safe and effective vaccines when it becomes available to you,” said health officer Lisa Peacock.

Pearson said vaccine availability was likely allowing schools in his district to stay open even as cases of the virus increase. Without the vaccine, exposure to a person who tested positive would take a teacher out of the classroom.

“We would have had to quarantine that teacher and find a suitable replacement, which is sometimes difficult to do to keep your doors open, so the fact that those teachers have been vaccinated, do not need to be quarantined and continue to teach has helped us keep our doors open,” he said.

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