CADILLAC — Everyone should assume they've been exposed to COVID-19, District Health Department No. 10 said on Monday morning.
On Friday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services notified the local health department that a patient in Wexford County had tested positive for COVID-19.
"Because the situation is evolving so rapidly and there is a high potential that individuals have been in the public that have the virus but didn't know it, we want everyone to assume they may have been exposed," said Jeannine Taylor, District Health Department No. 10's spokesperson. "This is across the board, not just with regard to the Wexford County case."
The patient is now recuperating at home, the health department told the Cadillac News on Monday morning.
District Health Department No. 10 is responsible for 10 counties, including three in the Cadillac News coverage area; Wexford, Missaukee and Osceola.
On Monday, the health department announced Newaygo, Manistee and Kalkaska counties also each had one confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Munson Healthcare said the Wexford County case had come through their mobile collection site in Cadillac and the Manistee case had come through their collection site in Manistee "and is being monitored by the local health department under self-quarantine."
Another person is currently hospitalized in stable condition at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City.
The MDHHS and the local health department are no longer publicly reporting how many people have been tested for COVID-19 or how many negative tests have come back.
It's too hard to do so accurately, the health department said.
"With data arriving from various labs at different times, including the state lab, hospital labs and private labs, it is very difficult to report accurate numbers at any given time," Taylor wrote in an email. "We want to be as transparent as possible, but we also must be accurate in what is reported."
When the department of notified of a presumptive positive COVID-19 case, the department "begins investigating that case to determine its validity, and to get as many details on the individual's potential exposure to others," Taylor said.
There are limited tests available, as many labs don't have the ability to run the COVID-19 test.
Patients with underlying health risks are the priority for testing.
Those that are otherwise healthy are put on a list and called regularly by their providers office, according to Dr. Alicia Elmore, a family physician who practices in Cadillac.
It's hard to say how many people are presumed positive in the region, in part because so few people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday.
When COVID-19 is "endemic" (regularly found) in an area, “We’re going to have more hospitalized patients," Elmore explained.
That isn't happening yet.
The health department is asking for the public's patience.
"We will notify the public as soon as the case is verified as positive," Taylor said.
Social distancing remains crucial because symptoms vary and may take time to show up.
“We ask that individuals strictly practice social distancing at this time,‘ said District Health Department No. 10 Health Officer Kevin Hughes, in a news release. “As cases are increasing, it is important to understand that individuals may display symptoms differently and not all who are sick with COVID-19 will be sick right away.‘
On Monday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a shelter-in-place order, dubbed "Stay Home, Stay Safe."
Hughes said people need to respect it.
“The Governor’s state-wide ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe, Save Lives’ order is a measure to ultimately curb the spread of the virus and slow the progression of illness throughout the state,‘ Hughes said. “Community members need to abide by this order to protect those who are most at risk of serious illness.‘
There were 1,328 positive COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths in Michigan as of Monday afternoon.
The health department is urging people to abide by CDC guidelines, which include:
— Clean your hands and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
—Avoid close contact with other people
—Stay home if you're sick
—Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue if you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue away and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds
— Wear a facemask if you are sick but do not wear one if you are healthy because health care workers and sick people need personal protective equipment, which is in short supply
— Clean and disinfect daily frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.