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COVID-19 variant identified in Presque Isle County

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

ALPENA — Local public health officials on Monday announced a Northeast Michigan resident completed isolation after becoming infected with a variant of the COVID-19 virus.

The Presque Isle County resident infected with the B.1.1.7. virus was identified through routine active surveillance by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“Since the variant is more contagious, the virus could potentially infect more people with less exposure,” District Health Department No. 4 Medical Director Josh Meyerson said in a news release.

Meyerson said it is “imperative” community members strengthen prevention measures by wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds, washing hands frequently and getting vaccinated.

“As of today anyone 16 and over is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine,” Meyerson said. “It is now your turn to get the vaccine. With cases soaring in Michigan right now and new variants taking hold, getting a vaccine is imperative to slowing and ending the pandemic.”

Health Department officials said in earlier surges, children played only a minor role in transmitting the infection, but that pattern may be changing as new variants are identified and seniors get vaccinated.

Cases are rising among all age groups, but one of the largest number of new infections is among children ages 10 to 19. Cases among younger children — infants to 9 year-olds — are also increasing by more than 230% since Feb. 19, local public health officials said.

Meanwhile schools in Northeast Michigan continue to feel the impacts of the virus.

Alcona Community Schools Superintendent Dan O’Connor in a letter to parents on Monday said he was notified of five new student positive cases of COVID-19 over the course of spring break at the middle and high school.

O’Connor said district officials are informing students and staff required to quarantine. He said the district is collaborating with District Health Department No. 2 to ensure all precautions have been taken to protect students.

The district will proceed with other academic and extracurricular programming.

O’Connor encourages parents to continue monitoring their child or children for COVID-19 symptoms.

Meanwhile, two more Northeast Michigan residents have died after being infected with COVID-19 and 97 new or probable infections were reported by local public health officials on Monday.

Public health officials on Monday reported 97 newly infected or probably infected Northeast Michiganders, including 35 Alpena County residents, 22 Presque Isle County residents, seven Montmorency County residents, and 33 Alcona County residents.

As of Feb. 18, local public health agencies have reported confirmed and suspected infections as one number.

Based on that data, 3,376 Northeast Michiganders have been confirmed or suspected infected since the pandemic hit Michigan in mid-March. Of those, 108 have died.

State data showed 39,136 doses of coronavirus vaccine had been administered in Northeast Michigan.

As of Thursday, six people were hospitalized at MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena with coronavirus infection, including two in intensive care, according to state data. The hospital was 50% full.

As of Friday, 99 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 was reported Monday .

Local public health officials have stopped tracking recoveries.

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