West Bay Ice on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo, COVID-19o
West Bay Ice on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
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The folks at Peninsula Township sent along some info regarding the COVID-19 virus, also known as the Corona Virus, which the World Health Organization has now classified as a global pandemic as of March 10, 2020. Peninsula Township is following the directives of Grand Traverse County, which is receiving daily updates from the Grand Traverse County Health Department.

From Nate Alger, Grand Traverse County Administrator:

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“I have confidence that our local health officials have the required understanding of the situation and that they are interacting daily with their federal and state counterparts and local partners to address concerns and will have a response plan in place. I have asked for daily updates from the Health Department, and we are forming an interdisciplinary team to ensure proper plans are in place.”

What We Know Right Now

The situation is rapidly changing with each passing day, but as of yesterday, March 12, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) reported that there were 12 cases of COVID-19 in the state of Michigan – two cases initially, and ten cases announced yesterday.

According to their press release, regarding the ten new cases, “Clinical specimens were collected from the individuals and sent to the MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories where they tested presumptive positive for COVID-19. The specimens will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation testing.”

Note that none of these cases, including the two initial cases, are in Grand Traverse County. The first two cases were in Wayne County and Oakland County. The ten cases announced yesterday include:

  • An adult female from Ingham County with a history of travel on a cruise.
  • Two adult females from Kent County and one adult male, all with a history of international travel.
  • An adult female from Montcalm County with a history of international travel.
  • Two adult males from Oakland County; one with no travel history and one with domestic travel.
  • An adult male from St. Clair County with a history of domestic travel.
  • One adult female and one adult male from Washtenaw County; one with a history of domestic travel and one with a history of international travel.

Again, note that while these cases have tested as “presumptive positive,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still need to confirm that they are indeed positive for COVID-19.

Prepare, Not Panic

Alger said he has met with Grand Traverse County Health Department officials to speak about the county’s preparedness efforts in the event that Grand Traverse County becomes directly impacted by the COVID-19 virus.

“Our Health Officer has confirmed that Grand Traverse County has not had any confirmed cases of the virus. Regardless, we are working together and planning for a responsible response. The term ‘Prepare, Not Panic’ has been used recently to summarize our activity.”

To stay up-to-date on the latest COVID-19 news for Grand Traverse County, click here to access the Health Department’s COVID-19 page. You can also sign up for email updates as they’re available.

Shut-Downs, Bans and Cancellations

If you have an event coming up, call ahead to make sure the event is still being held. If it involves a large number of people, chances are good that it’s been canceled.

At this writing, many Michigan colleges and universities have switched from in-person classes to online classes. Our daughter at Michigan State University texted me on Wednesday that they were going online until April 20. She graduates in May, and I haven’t heard whether the graduation ceremonies are still scheduled to take place. I’m guessing maybe not, but that’s a ways away.

In other news, yesterday Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closed all Michigan K-12 public and private schools from March 16 through April 5. This includes Old Mission Peninsula School and Traverse City Area Public Schools.

And today, Whitmer signed an executive order prohibiting gatherings of more than 250 people. The order goes into effect at 5 p.m. today, Friday, March 13, and lifts on Sunday, April 5 at 5 p.m. It applies to all events and gatherings in shared spaces like rooms, halls, cafeterias, auditoriums, theaters and galleries.

Also, Peninsula Community Library just reported that beginning at the end of the business day today, they will be closed until further notice.

What the Grand Traverse County Health Department Is Doing

  • Regularly participating on calls with the MDHHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and community partners like Munson Healthcare.
  • Monitoring all individuals identified by MDHHS and based on risk exposure defined by the CDC.
  • Maintaining communication with local medical providers to provide up-to-date information.
  • Coordinating with local and regional preparedness partners to ensure that proper response plans and procedures are in place and ready to be activated.

What Individuals Should Be Doing To Protect Ourselves

  • Wash your hands frequently and well: use soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 to 95 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay home if you are sick (work, school, social gatherings, events, etc.)
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Also avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as this is how germs spread.
  • Disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a bleach-based household cleaning spray or wipe. These are products certified by the EPA to clean COVID-19.
  • Call ahead to your healthcare provider if you have a serious respiratory illness (most COVID-19 infections will not be serious, says the county).
  • Plan ahead. Figure out if you can work from home, find out what you would do if school or daycare were closed, and maintain a good supply of non-perishable food items (in case you need to remain home due to illness).
  • Plan now for caring for loved ones who may be sick or medically compromised. Also plan for how to avoid exposing each other.
  • For those over 65 or those who have chronic medical conditions (congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes), keep prescription medications filled and over the counter medications on hand.

Should We Be Using Personal Protective Equipment Like Face Masks?

  • The CDC does not routinely recommend the use of face masks by persons who are well, as a means of avoiding respiratory infection. Currently, face masks are only recommended under special, high-risk circumstances, and for those who are already ill, to prevent virus spread.
  • There is little evidence at this time that supports the use of face masks by persons who are well.

What About Travel?

  • Consider postponing nonessential travel.
  • Evaluate CDC travel guidelines here prior to travel.

Stay Updated With Current Factual Information

Healthcare Provider Information

School, Childcare and IHE Information

Business and Employer Information

Households and Families

Additional Guidance

Resources for Anyone

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever.

To keep the Gazette going, click here to make a donation. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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