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First Montmorency County death, Pied Piper, Alcona schools infections reported

Courtesy Image An illustration of the coronavirus provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

ALPENA — An elderly Montmorency County man has died after being infected with COVID-19, marking the first time a resident of that county has died amid the pandemic, public health officials said today.

“We wish to express our heartfelt sympathies to the family and friends who have lost their loved one,” District Health Department No. 4 Health Officer Denise Bryan said in a press release today. “This is a tragic reminder that COVID-19 continues to pose a serious threat to our community members.”

It is the 21st death of a Northeast Michigander linked to the coronavirus since the pandemic began in mid-March, the fourth since Oct. 26.

The state health department has reported an employee at MediLodge of Hillman was infected with COVID-19. Nursing home infections are especially dangerous and were linked to most Northeast Michigan infections during the first wave of the virus in the spring.

Meanwhile, Pied Piper School and Alcona Community Schools reported infections linked to the schools and Living Hope Church in Alpena announced it is moving its services online until Dec. 6 after an infected person attended church services Sunday and an Operation Christmas Child packing party on Saturday.

And Alpena City Hall will close to the public starting Thursday until Dec. 9, city officials announced today. Residents can mail or drop off payments at an outdoor drop box at 208 N. 1st Ave.

Alpena Public Schools Superintendent David Rabbideau said in a letter to parents today that Health Department officials said no one was required to self-isolate in relation to a probable COVID-19 infection associated with Ella White Elementary School.

Flip through the interactive timeline below to see how the coronavirus spread through Northeast Michigan. Story continues below the timeline.

Public health officials today reported 42 newly infected Northeast Michiganders, including 18 Alpena County residents, nine Presque Isle County residents, five Montmorency County residents, and 10 Alcona County residents.

That means that, as of today, 469 Northeast Michiganders were actively infected, meaning they’d been confirmed infected with COVID-19 but have not recovered or died.

The number of active infections among Northeast Michiganders has risen nearly five-fold since Nov. 1.

As of Monday, MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena was treating eight coronavirus patients, according to state data. Updated data was not available today.

The interactive graphic below shows active infections in Northeast Michigan over time. Story continues below graphic.

As of today, 121 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection across the state-designated, 18-county health care region that includes Alpena, Presque Isle, and Montmorency counties, according to state data.

Since the pandemic hit Michigan in mid-March, 689 Northeast Michiganders have been infected, according to local public health agencies. Of those, 199 have recovered and 21 have died.

SCHOOL INFECTIONS

Alcona Superintendent Dan O’Connor said in a letter to parents on today that someone connected to a third-grade class was probably infected with COVID-19 and a district employee is infected.

O’Connor announced this evening that a second COVID-19 infection was discovered in connection with Alcona Middle School and the sixth-grade classes will self-isolate for two weeks, returning to school on Dec. 3.

School officials do not identify whether infected people are students, employees, parents, or others, citing health privacy laws. People are considered probably infected if they’re exposed to an infected person and are showing symptoms, themselves.

O’Connor said school officials are working with District Health Department No. 2 and school employees will notify impacted students and employees if they need to self-isolate. Isolating students will learn remotely Thursday and Friday, with lessons delivered by their teacher.

And a confirmed COVID-19 infection and a second probable infection connected to Pied Piper School was reported, Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District officials said Tuesday evening in a letter sent to parents and community members.

The announcement was made the same day AMA ESD officials closed Pied Piper and the district’s Early Childhood Special Education classroom at Lincoln Elementary because of a previous probable infection. The ECSE classroom at Lincoln Elementary School reopened today, while Pied Piper remains closed as staff and students transition to remote learning.

The interactive chart below shows cumulative infections, recoveries and deaths in Northeast Michigan over time. Story continues below graphic.

School officials are confident students and staff in the ECSE classroom were not exposed to the virus.

“Cleaning and disinfecting of the exposed location(s) will be completed before students or staff access any school related areas,” AMA ESD Superintendent Scott Reynolds said in the letter.

Bryan, of the Health Department, said officials are grateful to everyone in the community who continues to wear their masks and follow social distancing and other guidelines.

The Health Care Association of Michigan is also encouraging Michiganders to remain vigilant with masking, handwashing, and social distancing, especially as the holidays approach. The association says the greater number of infections in the community could directly impact the health of nursing home residents or employees.

“Facilities throughout the state have been fighting every day to protect residents from the virus and deserve our thanks and appreciation,” Melissa Samuel, president of the association, said. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 is finding its way into facilities through asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals due to significant community spread. We know from public health research that the best way to control COVID-19 in nursing facilities is to control it in surrounding communities.”

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