District Health Department No. 10 on Monday issued a public health advisory, urging those in its 10-county jurisdiction to adhere to the recent Nov. 15 emergency order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

The Nov. 15 order, signed by the MDHHS director, is intended to contain the spread of COVID-19, as Michigan continues to see a surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The new emergency order enacts a three-week pause targeting indoor social gatherings and other group activities in an effort to curb rapidly rising COVID-19 infection rates.

Locally, there has experienced a 138-percent increase in cases during the past month. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are trending upward. The deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in the region have reached the highest they have ever been, and the COVID-19 risk level in the area is now considered highest risk, signifying widespread community transmission.

The health advisory is intended to provide heightened guidance for residents to best protect themselves and others. It will remain in effect until lifted and will replace all previously issued public health advisories. The cooperation of all businesses and residents in following best practices and safety precautions is needed to prevent an unmanageable surge on our local healthcare systems, to protect the health and safety of citizens, and to prevent additional restrictions and closures.

District Health Department No. 10 urges everyone to wear a facial covering in public places, practice social distancing, exercise good hand hygiene and to comply with the public health orders MDHHS.

Increased gathering with others, travel, and movement in and around local business establishments during the upcoming holiday celebrations presents additional risk to our hospitals, businesses and community members.

Unfortunately, viral transmission is most common and infection rates are increased with prolonged exposure times indoors, especially when in close proximity to others.

In order to protect residents, visitors and employees, the health department is advising that you abide by the following guidelines:

• If you are sick, stay at home. Do not leave your residence except to get tested for COVID-19 or seek health care. Do not go to work or school.

• If you have COVID-19 symptoms, seek testing as soon as possible and isolate at home until your test results come back. Contact your healthcare provider, go to www.mi.gov/coronavirustest or call 211 to locate a testing location.

• If you test positive for COVID-19, immediately isolate yourself and notify your close contacts to quarantine. Do not wait for instruction from the health department, as there may be delays due to rapidly rising cases. For more information go to www.dhd10.org/covid-19-now-what.

• If you are a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, self-quarantine for 14 days after your last contact with them.

• Answer all calls, texts, or emails from the state or local health department.

• Adhere to the required safety precautions while in business establishments including face coverings, social distancing, and capacity limits posted at business entrances.

• Maintain 6 feet of social distance from those outside your household, and avoid crowding on outdoor trails, parks, and recreational areas.

• Parents and guardians are strongly encouraged to prevent children from gathering in groups during evenings, weekends, holidays, or during periods of remote education. The benefit achieved by these periods of separation will be eliminated if people continue to gather outside of the school setting.

• Comply with limits for social gatherings and events, which are available on the MDHHS website. Note that any gathering is a high risk for COVID-19. Just because it is allowed doesn’t mean it is safe.

• If you must gather with others, choose a consistent “social pod” and be comfortable with that group knowing that as the number increases so does risk of transmission. Keep your number under 10 and do not travel with more than one other household.

This will not eliminate your risk of getting COVID-19. It may decrease your risk some and make it easier to track those that have been exposed.

Consider modified holiday celebrations that are small, local and encourage wearing of masks, social distancing, and proper hygiene practices.

People older than 65 and those with underlying health conditions need to be extra cautious. These individuals should avoid, or at least minimize, time in public places and gatherings. Others need to take special care to protect those at increased risk by avoiding interactions.

If you decide you must travel to visit with friends or relatives keep the number low. Consider being very careful in the week or two before travel, make as few stops as possible during your trip, and practice increased caution during the visit.

Upon returning home after traveling, closely monitor for any symptoms and stay home if you become sick. Consider getting tested 5-7 days after travel, and isolating until the results are back. This goes for both those traveling and those who are having visitors, especially if anyone in these groups is higher risk.

If you must travel via public transportation, protect yourself and others by wearing a mask, keep as much distance from others as possible, and regularly wash or sanitizing your hands. Keep your hands away from your face as much as possible. Do not travel if you are ill.

While indoor spaces present increased risk for coronavirus transmission, schools and businesses currently allowed to remain open should strictly adhere to state and local guidance to maintain lower risk environments. Customers are encouraged to continue to support local businesses but are advised to opt for pickup and delivery whenever possible. Time spent shopping or otherwise inside indoor public spaces should be minimized. Schools are encouraged to continue following their school board approved COVID-19 preparedness and response plans, in addition to utilizing state and local guidance as needed.

All residents and businesses are urged to follow all these safety precautions. Failure to do so will perpetuate the spread of COVID-19 and cause prolonged harm to people and businesses. By following these simple guidelines, the risk for spreading COVID-19 lowers significantly, protecting everyone in the region and in the state.

Residents in Crawford, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Newaygo, Oceana and Wexford counties who need resources can call 211 or utilize the health department’s free Community Connections program by calling 888-217-3904, then selecting option 3.

Public exposure sites

District Health Department No. 10 has announced that it will no longer publish potential COVID-19 public exposure sites.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” said Kevin Hughes, health officer for the health department. “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.”

At this time, the public must take responsibility for its 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.

For more information about COVID-19, visit the following websites:

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