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Presque Isle County leads in vaccinations

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

ALPENA — One year after public health officials reported the first Northeast Michigander infected with the coronavirus, the region leads the state’s climb out of the pandemic.

Presque Isle County has fully vaccinated a larger share of its residents than any other Michigan county, according to state data. And all four Northeast Michigan counties have a spot in the top-10 most-vaccinated counties.

That success may explain why Northeast Michigan’s infection rate ranks among the lowest in the state and the Alpena hospital has kept a bigger share of its beds open than most Michigan hospitals.

Although the fact that Northeast Michigan still lags significantly in testing its residents for infection could also explain the low infection rate.

As Northeast Michigan passes the first anniversary of the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, here’s a look at what the data tells us about how we stack up against the rest of the state.

VACCINE LEADERS

As of Sunday, Presque Isle County had fully vaccinated 36.5% of its residents 16 years old or older, according to state records updated Monday. That made the county number-one for fully protecting its residents against coronavirus infection.

Alcona County ranked third, with 34.7% of residents fully vaccinated. Alpena County ranked sixth, with 33.4%, and Montmorency County in seventh, with 32%.

Public health experts say vaccinating at least 70% of the population 16 and older should produce enough “herd immunity” for us to declare the pandemic over and return to normal life.

Northeast Michigan has done well toward that goal, with 51% of Presque Isle County residents, 47% of Montmorency County residents, 46% of Alpena County residents, and 42% of Alcona County residents with at least one vaccine shot as of Sunday.

The vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna require two shots for full inoculation. The newest vaccine to hit the market, from Johnson and Johnson, requires only one shot.

Northern Michigan counties lead the state for shots in arms. Grand Traverse, Emmet, Charlevoix, Alger, Schoolcraft, and Ontonagon counties round out the top-10 most-vaccinated.

Detroit — counted separate from counties in state records — had vaccinated 12.4% of residents, the least in the state.

Statewide, about 23% of residents were vaccinated by Sunday.

FEWER INFECTIONS

Since the pandemic’s start in mid-March 2020, public health officials have confirmed coronavirus infection in 2,833 residents, according to state records.

That’s a rate of 4,642 infections per 100,000 residents (the rate is higher than actual infections because fewer than 100,000 people live in the region).

On a per-capita basis, Northeast Michigan would rank 69th among Michigan’s 83 counties if treated as one county.

Presque Isle County ranks 60th. Alpena County ranks 66th. Alcona County ranks 75th. Montmorency County ranks 77th.

As of Monday, the virus had hit the Upper Peninsula’s Dickinson County the hardest-hit, with 8,647 infections per 100,000 residents, while going easiest on Luce County, which had fewer than 2,300 infections per 100,000 residents.

Statewide, 6,358 out of every 100,000 residents have been infected since the pandemic’s start.

DEATHS HIT HARDER

With the elderly more susceptible to serious complications from coronavirus infection and an aging population here, virus-related deaths have hit Northeast Michigan harder.

The state reported Monday 114 Northeast Michiganders have died since the pandemic’s start, equal to 187 deaths per 100,000 residents, the 20th-most in the state.

Presque Isle County ranked 13th, Alcona County 16th, Montmorency County 22nd, and Alpena County 28th.

The virus has proved most fatal in Baraga County, where 388 out of every 100,000 residents have died after being infected.

Statewide, 152 out of every 100,000 residents have died after being infected.

Northeast Michigan’s public health agencies report 108 residents have died since the pandemic’s start. It wasn’t immediately clear why the local agencies recorded fewer deaths, but agencies have repeatedly had to correct mixups between state and local data.

The News used state data for the county-to-county comparisons to ensure it used the same data source for each county.

STILL BEHIND IN TESTS

The virus may have infected more Northeast Michiganders than we realize.

Health care officials have performed 69,265 coronavirus tests per 100,000 residents in Northeast Michigan, 76th in the state — 10th from bottom.

Alcona County had the third-lowest testing rate in the state, Alpena County the sixth-lowest. Presque Isle County ranked 62nd, Montmorency County 63rd.

Iron County tested the most of its population, with 217,307 tests per 100,000 residents as of Monday, state data shows. Cheboygan County tested the least, with just over 57,000 tests per 100,000 residents.

Because many infected people show no symptoms but can still infect others, public health officials say widespread testing is important to determine the exact scope of the pandemic.

HOSPITALIZATIONS

On April 1, the most recent day for which data was available, MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena counted six COVID-19 patients in its beds, two of them in intensive care.

Still, half the hospital’s beds remained open, putting the hospital’s occupancy rate at 82nd out of 134 Michigan hospitals.

State officials look closely at hospital occupancy to determine whether to impose social restrictions to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Five Michigan hospitals were completely full as of April 1, and 22 recorded occupancy rates of 90% or more.

The statewide occupancy rate was 77%.

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