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Most locals recovered, but ‘we can’t become complacent’

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz A customer buys an energy drink at the Shell gas station on Chisholm Street in Alpena on Friday. Although most infected Northeast Michiganders have recovered from the coronavirus and most businesses are now open, health officials say precautions must be maintained.

ALPENA — Over the last couple of weeks, the number of Northeast Michiganders recovering from COVID-19 has outnumbered those newly infected with the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Despite that positive trend, health experts at District Health Departments No. 4 and No. 2 say it’s still too early to claim victory over the virus and residents should continue to expect more infections as more people are tested.

As of Friday, 124 residents of Alpena, Presque Isle, Montmorency, and Alcona counties had been infected since the disease hit Michigan in mid-March, and 92 have completely recovered, the Health Department reported.

Seventy-four of the 94 infected Alpena County residents have moved on from their illness, while all 11 infected Presque Isle County residents and five infected Montmorency County residents have healed. Infections have spiked in Alpena County in recent days; just two of the 14 infected residents there have recovered.

The state considers a person recovered when they survive 30 days after they are confirmed infected.

Nine Alpena County residents have died while infected with COVID-19, and one Alcona County resident has died while infected.

Click through the interactive timeline below to see how the virus spread throughout Northeast Michigan. The story continues below the timeline.

People shouldn’t become complacent when they see the reported cases going down or the number of people recovered going up, because much testing still must be done, said Devin Spivey, community director of epidemiology at District Health Departments No. 4 and No. 2, which serve northern Michigan.

Spivey said it is always nice to see low numbers, but they don’t always paint a clear picture of what is happening.

“We could see another spike, as we do more testing,” she said. “When you test, you usually find what you’re looking for. We just don’t know what the numbers will be, but testing is really the key to what we find moving forward.”

Spivey said that, because there is a chance of a second wave of the virus or an outbreak could be found through increased testing, it is imperative that people continue to protect themselves and others while out in public, especially since most businesses are reopening in much of northern Michigan.

“We can’t let our guard down, and we have to remain diligent, because the rest of the state is not open and people are traveling,” Spivey said. “We don’t have a clear picture what will come from that and how that will impact the spread here.”

Spivey said that, when compared to the population in the area, the number of people tested is quite low. She said people should not be surprised if more cases pop up as more people get tested.

So far, 613 Alpena County residents have been tested, along with 167 Presque Isle County residents, 147 Montmorency County residents, and 155 Alcona County residents.

Spivey said the National Guard is gearing up for more testing in the area in the coming weeks, and those numbers should jump.

As speculation mounts about the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19, Spivey said states, local health departments, and hospitals should be able to act more swiftly.

She said a lot has been learned about the coronavirus since the first case in the Alpena area was reported on March 29. She said having a team in place to conduct swift and accurate tracing of people with whom infected people came in contact will help get people tested and quarantined more efficiently.

Still, she said, people washing their hands, staying at least six feet away from those outside their immediate family, and wearing face masks is the best defense.

“It was new to us and we were able to learn a lot,” she said. “Now, we’re ready and prepared, should there be a second wave, or things begin to take off again. We are ready to jump in feet first to respond. Of course, we hope we don’t have to, but we’re ready should we be needed.”

RECOVERED

A look at the percentage of residents of each county who were known infected with the coronavirus who have since recovered.

Alpena County: 79%

Presque Isle County: 100%

Montmorency County: 100%

Alcona County: 14%

Sources: District Health Departments No. 2 and No. 4

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