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Onaway paramedic is the area’s first COVID-19 case

News Photo by Julie Riddle A basketball court is seen cordoned off in Rogers City on Monday, one of several outdoor recreational areas closed to the public to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

ONAWAY — If she can get it, anyone can get it.

That is the message Onaway resident Glenda Bowman wants to share with her fellow residents in Northeast Michigan after she received the test results on Monday showing she had contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

She is the first positive case in Presque Isle County. As of Monday afternoon, zero cases were reported in Alpena, Montmorency, or Alcona counties as the statewide tally of coronavirus infections surged past 17,000, with more than 700 deaths.

Bowman is a paramedic who works in Otsego County. When she got out of work on April 2, she began to feel ill and displayed some of the symptoms of coronavirus, Bowman told The News on Monday. Otsego County is a hotspot for the disease in northern Michigan, with 26 confirmed cases as of Monday, more than double any surrounding counties.

Bowman quarintined herself and was tested in Gaylord on April 3. She said neither she or her husband, Bill, have left the house since she began showing symptoms.

“When I got home from working a 12-hour shift, I just didn’t feel right, and then got a low grade fever,” Bowman said. “I got tested the next day and got the results back today. I was stressed out, because the waiting is the hardest part, but now I’m actually relived, somewhat. I’ll get through this.”

Bowman said her husband is also experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, but has not been tested because it is assumed he has it because of his contact and proximity to her.

“I would bet my life he has it, too,” she said.

District Health Department No. 4 is working quickly to identify and contact anyone potentially exposed to the Bowmans and will monitor them for symptoms, department spokeswoman Cathy Goike said. The department refused to release Bowman’s name, residence, age, or occupation.

Bowman self-identified as the patient on Facebook and The News reached out to her for an interview.

Dr. Josh Meyerson, medical director at the Health Department, said the Presque Isle County case reinforces the belief that there is community spread of the virus in Northeast Michigan and residents must follow federal, state, and local guidelines to protect themselves and others.

“We are hoping that this individual has a complete recovery,” Meyerson said in a statement. “We also are beginning to see evidence of community spread and therefore, community mitigation and prevention strategies are even more imperative.”

The Health Department ordered essential businesses that remain open to track employees’ health and not allow anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 — including fever, sore throat, cough, and diarrhea — to come into work. The News is considered an essential business and is tracking employees’ health.

As someone who works on the front line in the battle against the virus, Bowman said she wants her story to be shared so others may be able to protect themselves. She said many people still are not practicing social distancing.

“If I can get it when I was doing everything right and wearing all of the appropriate emergency protective equipment, then it is just a matter of time before others are going to get it if they don’t listen,” Bowman told The News. “There are still too many people who are not listening and following the guidelines and that puts them and others at risk.”

District Health Department No. 4 reports 56 tests for COVID-19 have been taken in Alpena County, with 49 returned negative and seven test results still pending. In Montmorency County, 17 tests have been done and nine have come back negative, with eight results pending. Nineteen tests have been done in Presque Isle County, with 12 negative results received and six still pending.

District Health Department No. 2, which serves Alcona County, has stopped reporting the number of tests performed.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

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