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Feds raise virus risk level for Northeast Michigan

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

ALPENA — Northeast Michiganders are now at greater risk of COVID-19 infection than they have been for several weeks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although the risk of death or severe illness appears low.

The CDC has raised the COVID-19 risk level for Alpena, Presque Isle, Montmorency, and Alcona counties to medium, meaning those at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus infection, such as the elderly or those with preexisting conditions, should consult with their doctor about whether they need to wear a facemask or take other precautions to prevent infection.

The CDC had for weeks considered Northeast Michigan in the low risk category, but infections have become more common again.

Local public health officials have reported 212 newly infected Northeast Michiganders in the last month, compared to 120 in the month before that.

The chart below shows the number of newly infected Northeast Michiganders reported by local health departments each week. NOTE: The health departments have occasionally adjusted numbers downward as data is reviewed, meaning new cases sometimes show as a negative number. The story continues below the graphic.

The number of new infections could be higher, as the data doesn’t account for any positive results from home testing not reported to local public health departments. It also doesn’t account for asymptomatic people who never take a test but could still spread the disease.

The CDC now ranks several Up North counties — including Cheboygan, Emmett, Antrim, and Kalkaska counties in the Lower Peninsula and Mackinac and Chippewa counties in the Upper Peninsula — as high-risk areas for coronavirus infection, meaning the CDC recommends everyone in those counties wear a mask while indoors in public.

Despite the still-spreading virus, the newest phase of the coronavirus pandemic appears less deadly than earlier phases.

In the last month, local public health officials reported the deaths of three Northeast Michiganders who had been infected with COVID-19. In the previous month, local public health officials reported 12 deaths.

The chart below shows the number of new COVID-19-related deaths reported each week by local public health departments. The story continues below the graphic.

As of Monday, three COVID-19 patients were admitted at MyMichigan Medical Center Alpena, none of them in intensive care. The hospital was 72% full. That’s down from a month ago, when the hospital had twice as many COVID-19 patients.

The chart below shows the number of COVID-19 patients admitted at MyMichigan Medical Center Alpena each week. The story continues below the graphic.

Current infection and death rates are nowhere near as bad as the last winter wave.

In January, local public health officials reported nearly 1,200 newly infected Northeast Michiganders and 17 deaths.

Meanwhile, among those 5 and older, the state says 58% of Alpena County residents, 63% of Presque Isle County residents, 57% of Montmorency County residents, and 59.5% of Alcona County residents have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The chart below shows the number of Northeast Michiganders 5 and older fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The story continues below the graphic.

About 37.5% of Northeast Michiganders had received a booster dose of the vaccine.

Since February 2021, Northeast Michigan health officials have reported confirmed and probable infections as one number. A person counts as a probable infection if they’d been exposed to a confirmed infected person and are showing symptoms but hadn’t been tested, themselves — such as family members of infected people.

Since the pandemic’s start in mid-March 2020, public health officials have reported 11,398 infections among Northeast Michiganders, and 290 related deaths.

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