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Data collection change explains low recovery counts, official says

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

ALPENA — A change in paperwork means local public health departments are not tracking those who recover from COVID-19 the way they used to, which could explain why the number of Northeast Michiganders reported recovered from infection seems low in publicly released data.

The option to enter a recovered date for confirmed infections has been removed from the forms completed by the local health departments, Devin Spivey, epidemiologist with District Health Departments No. 2 and No. 4, said in an email to The News.

That information has been replaced with an option to enter the date symptoms are resolved.

The chart below shows the number of coronavirus vaccines administered across Alpena, Presque Isle, Montmorency, and Alcona counties. Story continues below the chart.

“Considering that not everyone develops symptoms, we are assessing this metric to determine its helpfulness to the community,” she said in the email. “I do anticipate that the dashboards will have a whole new look in the near future.”

Bob Wheaton, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said “recovered” is defined as the number of persons with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis who are alive 30 days after onset.

Thirty days ago, 1,776 Northeast Michiganders had been infected. As of today, 83 had died, including an Alpena County reported dead today.

Based on the state’s definition of recovery, that would mean somewhere around 1,693 Northeast Michiganders have recovered.

That’s not an exact figure because we don’t know how long after being infected people were confirmed infected, which could change the timeline for recovery, or whether all of those people actually stopped showing symptoms within 30 days.

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

Local health officials today reported just 463 Northeast Michiganders recovered since the beginning of the pandemic, only 84 of whom were reported recovered in the past 30 days.

A number of News readers had questioned the slow-changing recovery figures.

Spivey said the ins and outs of the COVID-19 response remain fluid and, as health officials learn more about the disease, the metrics they monitor may change or be removed altogether.

She added the state health department continues to review vital records statistics and to identify any laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infections that are 30 days out from their onset of illness to represent recovery status.

She said that appears as a cumulative number for the entire state.

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

Meanwhile, public health officials today reported a dozen newly infected Northeast Michiganders, including six Alpena County residents, three Presque Isle County residents, two Montmorency County residents, and one Alcona County resident.

Today was Alcona County’s first update since Tuesday.

State data showed that, as of Wednesday, 2,314 doses of coronavirus vaccine had been administered in Northeast Michigan.

As of today, 64 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.

The last death in Northeast Michigan was reported on Wednesday.

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