CADILLAC — Wednesday marked another day of no new COVID-19 cases in the Cadillac News four-county coverage area, as of late that afternoon.
Michigan has been on a "Stay Home" order for more then a week. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive order took effect on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. The week before, bars and restaurants were restricted to take-out service. Schools closed on March 16.
Is it working? Or is this the calm before the storm? The Cadillac News reached out to Dr. Alicia Elmore, a family physician in Cadillac, for her perspective.
"I don't think it's the calm before the storm," Elmore said. "I think there's cases out there right now that we don't know about."
The area will continue to see growth in the number of recorded cases, Elmore predicted.
"It's really going to be hard to tell how much (the closures are) flattening the curve for another couple weeks," Dr. Elmore said.
When the state of Michigan released new COVID-19 figures for Wednesday, April 1, Wexford County held steady from Sunday evening at 2 cases; Missaukee County had one confirmed case, though that person has died; and Osceola County remained at 2 cases. Lake County had none.
But statewide, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continued to soar, reaching 9,334 and 337 deaths by Wednesday. That was an increase of 1,719 cases over Tuesday and 78 new deaths.
Munson's Cadillac Hospital is serving as a COVID-19 care facility — one of three in the Munson Healthcare system that is filling that role — and most people are testing negative for COVID-19.
Wednesday's update from the hospital showed that 130 total patients have been tested for COVID-19 but 104 have tested negative while 21 people are waiting on their results. Just 5 people have been confirmed via testing at the Cadillac Hospital to have the disease.
Testing is supposed to prioritize the sickest patients.
The high percentage of negatives can be explained in two ways.
First, the sickest patients may have some other illness, such as influenza.
Second, there's a high false-negative rate with the COVID-19 test, meaning people will initially test negative for the disease but will have a positive test result 48 hours later, Dr. Elmore explained.
National and Detroit-area figures suggest the false negative rate could be 20-30%, Dr. Elmore said.
And even more people never get tested at all, even if they are showing symptoms. If you're not sick enough to be hospitalized and you aren't a health care worker, you probably aren't getting tested at all.
"The other scary thing that they're finding downstate is, when they are able to test people, they're finding 20% of their positive patients are asymptomatic," Dr. Elmore said.
Those people may be spreading COVID-19 without ever getting sick themselves.
The local health department urges residents to treat COVID-19 as if it is community spread, though the CDC says community transmission in Michigan is happening in "defined areas."
"My personal opinion is that when it is truly community spread we'll start seeing the hospitals get more overloaded," Dr. Elmore said.
The Cadillac Hospital says just one person is hospitalized with a confirmed case of COVID-19.