CADILLAC — The weekend of Nov. 21 saw four new COVID-19 deaths in the Cadillac News coverage area as the rate of positivity continues to climb.
The rate of cases is so high and widespread among the community that District Health Department No. 10 announced on Monday that the department would stop publishing potential public exposure sites.
“We did not come to this decision lightly,‘ said Kevin Hughes, health officer for DHD No. 10. “The decision was made because we can no longer extend our limited resources to investigating potential exposures. Being that we are now eight months into this pandemic, and cases are significantly on the rise, we must focus our efforts on case investigation and contact tracing.‘
In a news release, the health department went on to say that the public "must take responsibility for their own actions that could potentially put others at risk. If you choose to go out in public, whether to a grocery store, a restaurant, a church, a social gathering or event, or are simply visiting friends or family outside of your household, you must assume that someone could potentially be present who is contagious with COVID-19. You should always be monitoring for symptoms and consider getting testing if symptoms appear."
The department also issued a health advisory on Monday.
"Locally, we have experienced a 138% increase in cases over the past month. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are trending upward. The deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in our region have reached the highest they have ever been and the COVID-19 risk level for all our counties is now considered highest risk, signifying widespread community transmission," the department noted.
"Any gathering is a high risk for COVID-19," the health department said in a list of guidelines that called for social distancing, masking, quarantining and testing among other measures.
The four COVID deaths in the newspaper's coverage area were in Lake, Missaukee and Osceola counties.
Lake County saw two deaths. One was a woman in her 70s who was inpatient and died on Nov. 19 but not reported to the health department until Nov. 21. The other Lake County death was a woman in her 80s who was part of a long term care facility outbreak.
Missaukee County's second death happened last week and was reported on Nov. 21. The woman was in her 80s.
Osceola County also had a new COVID-19 death, according to updated numbers on the Central Michigan District Health Department dashboard.
A Cadillac News analysis of state-provided diagnostic testing data puts the positivity rate for the week ending Nov. 21 at 14.5% among the four counties combined. That's the highest it's been since the pandemic started. Each of the past three weeks has been a record in terms of the positivity rate among the four counties, with the week ending Nov. 7 at 11.2% and the week ending Nov. 14 at 12%.
Sunday's one-day positivity rate among the four counties was 20.4%, with 64 out of 313 tests coming back positive.
Among the four counties, Wexford County continues to add the most COVID-19 cases, though the positive rate has tended to be a little bit lower; however, Wexford County is the largest of the four counties, with almost three times the population of Lake County and almost twice the population of Missaukee County.
Wexford County added 66 new cases over the weekend and now hovers just below 500 total cases, with 496 since the pandemic began. District Health Department No. 10 is now reporting 11 total deaths in the county, though that number will probably go up on Tuesday; the state has the number of Wexford County deaths at 13.
Missaukee County added 22 new cases and reached 232 total cases since the pandemic began. There have now been two COVID-19 deaths in Missaukee County.
Lake County added 19 cases over the weekend, reaching 175 total cases. There have been four COVID-19 deaths in Lake County.
Osceola County had 51 new cases over the weekend, bringing the county above 400 cases. There have now been a total of 408 COVID-19 cases in Osceola County and three deaths.
Statewide COVID-19 cases are now above 300,000. At 9,986,857 total people in Michigan, approximately 3% have had COVID-19 as of Monday, when the number reached 314,216. There have been 8,543 deaths in Michigan due to COVID-19.