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New (small) wave of COVID-19 emerging in Northern Michigan, health officials say

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Brett Dahlberg
/
WCMU News
Dr. Christine Nefcy, chief medical officer at Munson Healthcare, describes the recent upturn in coronavirus cases in Northern Michigan in a virtual news conference on Tuesday.

Health officials in Northern Michigan said Tuesday that the spread of COVID-19 is picking up again.

Officials warned that the Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads more easily than other strains, and it is growing more common in Michigan.

The number of daily cases is still far below where it was during the spring surge that overwhelmed contact tracing teams and filled up hospitals, but Dr. Christine Nefcy, the chief medical officer with Munson Healthcare, said people are also being less careful now, compared to previous months.

“We’re seeing a lot more spread from people travelling, and so, that’s our local people going out, travelling, and then coming back,” Nefcy said. “We’ve seen a relaxation of those mitigating factors that we’ve been following for a long time of distancing and masking and hand-washing.”

Nefcy said the wave is small, at least for now, but it could grow as variants spread, particularly among the nearly 40% of Michigan’s population that is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We do fully expect that as we walk around unmasked, get together more often, are eating out, going to stores, all of that kind of stuff, that we are at risk, specifically with our unvaccinated population,” she said.

Nefcy and other health officials in Michigan said vaccination remains the safest way to protect against the disease, because hospitals still don’t have many treatment options for COVID-19 patients who need medical care.

Schools reopening next month represents the next milestone that could significantly increase chances of infection, said Grand Traverse County public health officer Wendy Hirschenberger.

“We’re watching, hoping it’s just a small wave, not a big wave coming at us again,” she said.