COVID, flu activity increases in northern Michigan

This article appeared in the Manistee News Advocate. Read more here.

Northwest Michigan has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases as well as hospitalizations due to COVID and the flu in recent weeks.

Munson Healthcare provide an update on COVID, flu and RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus) during a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

For the past two weeks, Michigan has been at a 13.4% positivity with about 207 cases of COVID per 100,000 people, according to Dr. Christine Nefcy, chief medical officer at Munson Healthcare.

Nefcy said that throughout the pandemic, the area covered by Munson Healthcare has typically lagged behind the state in terms of percent positivity rate.

However, “for the last two weeks we are actually above the state percentage at 18.3% positivity and 140 cases per 100,000, so (we’re) definitely … seeing an uptick in our numbers (after the holidays).”

In the past, Munson Healthcare’s virtual press conferences have focused on providing updated COVID-19 information, but now there are other respiratory illnesses at play, like the flu and RSV.

“Trends for flu and COVID-19 inpatient hospitalizations have steadily increased over the past three weeks,” according to Nefcy’s presentation.

In mid-December, the hospital system reported 18 flu inpatients admitted, that number grew to 55 by early January. For the same time period, 38 COVID-19 inpatients in December increased to 55; while 10 RSV inpatients were admitted in December and nine in January.

“Michigan is starting to slow down a little bit overall (in flu activity) as a the state is moving from a high to moderate activity but here in northern Michigan we are seeing quite a few cases,” she said.

The COVID patients who are being hospitalized are older, Nefcy said, and of the population over 65 years old “58% have not received that first booster; 62% haven’t received that most recent bivalent booster.”

Grand Traverse County and some surrounding areas have “a relatively high rate of flu vaccine coverage,” according to Nefcy, but still only account for about 41% of the population. Throughout the Munson Healthcare system, there is a range of 25-50% of people vaccinated against flu.

Nefcy recommended several preventive measures for COVID-19 and influenza:

  • Get vaccinated and/or boosted, especially people in high-risk populations;
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
  • If you are sick, limit contact with others and stay home as much as possible;
  • Masking can help prevent the spread of flu, RSV and COVID-19;
  • Avoid large gatherings if possible;
  • Wash hands frequently; and
  • Continue regular screenings and preventive care schedule.
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