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Northwest Michigan health officials focus on vaccinations as COVID-19 cases decline

District Health Department No. 10

Northern Michigan health officials said Tuesday that declining COVID-19 caseloads in the state mean they can increase their focus on vaccinations.

Dr. Christine Nefcy, the chief medical officer for Munson Healthcare, which runs a set of hospitals and clinics across the northern Lower Peninsula, said the system has less than a fifth of the daily cases now than it did during the peak of the spring surge.

Fewer cases means less time spent contact tracing and managing the burden on hospitals.

For public health departments, that means more time is available to work on vaccination efforts.

Wendy Hirschenberger, the health officer for Grand Traverse County, said her staff is focusing on small vaccination clinics at places like schools and the parking lots of restaurants and malls.

Mass vaccination clinics that require people to make a special trip to get their shots are less useful now that the most enthusiastic people are already vaccinated, she said.

Smaller clinics in places people are already visiting as they go about their lives are most effective now, said Hirschenberger.

Clinics at schools have been especially attractive to teenagers who like that they can avoid quarantine after an exposure if they’re vaccinated, said Heidi Britton, the CEO of Northwest Michigan Health Services.

“They wanted to be near their friends,” she said. “A lot of the kids have really stepped up.”

Brett joined WCMU in February, 2021, as a general assignment reporter. He was previously the health reporter at WXXI Public Broadcasting in Rochester, N.Y., and has filed stories for National Public Radio, IEEE Spectrum, The Village Voice and other outlets.
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