District Health Department No. 10 confirmed the rise in COVID-19 cases in Oceana and Newaygo counties came from outbreaks on farms and manufacture facilities at a virtual press conference at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
As of Friday, Oceana County had 227 total confirmed positive cases — of those, 82 were recovered. A week ago, on June 19, Oceana County had 155 cases and 56 recoveries, and two weeks ago, on June 12, 95 cases with 29 recoveries. Three people have died from COVID-19, according to the health department.
The health department updates its website, www.dhd10.org, each day at 3 p.m. with statistics for the counties in its jurisdiction.
Two zip codes in Oceana County — areas that include Shelby, Pentwater and Hart — have the most cases.
“In Oceana, 60 percent of cases were related to five facility outbreaks,” said Dr. Jennifer Morse, medical director for the health department. “One of the (facility) outbreaks began in May and has continued to this month. The rest of the outbreaks have all been occurring within (June). Two of the outbreaks have accounted for almost 120 cases,” Morse said.
The health department will not be releasing the names of the facilities at this time because the public does not have access to them, said Kevin Hughes, health officer for the department.
“When COVID-19 started, we decided as an agency not to release names of facilities, businesses or work sites unless it involved the need to protect public health,” Hughes said.
The health department works with each facility to reduce the spread of the virus to the public.
“Our public health nurses work closely with the businesses to make sure they have all the resources they need,” said Robin Walicki, clinical supervisor in Oceana County. “(The nurses) are working with them to make sure they are screening their employees. A lot of them establish very close relationships with the human resources contacts at the businesses.”
“We have a team of community health workers who also help with quarantining and isolation,” Hughes said. “The health workers contact them and see what they need — prescriptions picked up, food, water — and work with existing partners to get them those supplies.”
The departments had to adapt its approach to helping people mitigate the spread of the virus depending on the work and living situations of individuals and families.
“Certainly on some farms, there are large housing situations,” Morse said. “Some go to work ill, some are having trouble going home if they are ill due to work pressures. There are many factors going on. We had outbreaks in other counties with migrant populations as well.”
In some of the agricultural migrant populations, several generations live together and provide a support system, Hughes said.
“We have worked really hard from the beginning to basically do the most good with the least damage,” Morse said. “Sometimes we have bent things a little bit to contain it to one farm.”
Twenty-five cases were traced from those facility employees to their family members.
“Some cases started at work, then ... 19 percent went on and were spread at home,” Morse said.
Large jumps in the number of cases is typically due to household members receiving testing.
The rest of the cases in the county were from community spread, which means the department does not know where the person contracted the virus.
“For every one case that was caught in the community it caused about three household members to get sick, on average,” Morse said.
There isn’t a pattern to the community-occurring cases. The occupations of the community cases are varied, and some are retired or unemployed, she said.
About 50 percent of cases are not symptomatic. Some of the confirmed cases came from people being tested before procedures.
Locations for testing in Ocean County are Spectrum and Mercy hospitals.
Northwest Michigan Health Services (NMHSI) in Shelby will test people who are asymptomatic without a physician’s order. It has a drive-through clinic that requires an appointment.
There will be testing available in Cadillac on Tuesday and Wednesday for individuals from any community. It does not require an appointment or a doctor’s order.
The health department also posts community pop-up testing on its website.
After the health department receives confirmation that a test was positive, the case is assigned to a public health nurse in the department. The nurse then begins the case investigation process, which includes contact tracing, shared Hughes.
“(The nurse) will contact that individual and try to determine or ascertain all of the potential contacts that this person may have come in contact with. That will usually starts with 48 hours prior to the person displaying symptoms,” Hughes said. “This is a process we use not only for (COVID-19), but also for any other types of communicable disease.”
The nurses reach out to those “contact people” if the risk warrants it, Morse added.
“’Close contact’ is ... someone you had contact with for at least 15 minutes and were within 6 feet of distance,” Morse said. “The (highest risk) people have with close contact is a household member.”
A “close contact” is not someone who casually walks by at the grocery store, she said.
“Unless they had a very long interaction with one person ... then those are not considered close contacts,” Morse said. “Another person not considered ‘close contact’ is a health care worker who was wearing the appropriate protective equipment.”
Any location where there was gathering, such as a wedding or church service, the health department sends a letter to those facilities.
The health department will host a virtual town hall at 2 p.m. on Monday, June 29.
The public will be able to access the meeting online using Microsoft Teams. People do not need to sign up for an account to attend. The link is at bit.ly/383M3K9. The call-in number is (616) 426-9797 with a conference ID No. 281 435 947#
The health department asks people to email questions ahead of the meeting to firstname.lastname@example.org, though there will be a question and answer time.
The town hall is limited to 250 callers.
The recording from the press conference on Friday will be available on the health department website.