M37 South
The southern end of M37 South | Jane Boursaw Photo
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With worries over the COVID-19/CoronaVirus taxing our health system, the Grand Traverse County Health Department is requesting that all residents, visitors and snowbirds coming into Grand Traverse County from downstate, Florida, or other areas around the country with high community transmission rates – remain in self-quarantine for 14 days in order to reduce transmission in Northern Michigan.

Since we’re all supposed to be social distancing (although not everyone is), self-quarantining for 14 days isn’t that much different that what we’re all doing anyway. Especially since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order mandating that we all “Stay Home, Stay Safe.”

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If you’re heading this way from downstate, Florida or some other locale, you might have to have someone deliver a few groceries, but we also have delivery services like Instacart and Shipt in Traverse City, so you might check those out.

UPDATE, April 9, 2020: A new executive order signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer prohibits travel between two residences within the state of Michigan.

Here is the full statement about downstate residents, snowbirds and visitors heading north from Wendy Hirschenberger, Health Officer with the Grand Traverse County Health Department, along with guidelines for year-round residents:

According to the Governor’s Executive Order, people are able to come to their vacation homes, summer homes or second homes in Northern Michigan. However, this definitely poses a threat to us, as we don’t know where these people are returning or coming from. They very well could be coming from an area that has a high rate of community transmission.

I recommend that someone traveling from a high-risk area with community transmission of COVID-19 self-quarantine for 14 days. It is very important for people who are out conducting essential personal business like grocery shopping or going to the pharmacy to be very mindful to follow the rules of washing your hands, not touching your face, and staying home when you are sick, because with the influx of people returning, there is a higher chance that you could be exposed in our community.

The risk of their having picked up the virus where they’re coming from is higher than the low risk at this point to communities in Northern Michigan. As a matter of neighborliness and good will, they should be willing to self quarantine for the length of the incubation period. It won’t be that different anyway from what we’re all being asked to do. Maybe asking somebody else to grocery shop for you a couple of times, that’s about the only extra in quarantine compared to shelter at home.

Everyone should be home with the exception of going out for essential services right now anyway. Just like those who are fragile or at high risk for serious disease should not be going out, those who are coming from high risk areas with widespread community transmission should not be going out until they’ve waited an incubation period (14 days). There are resources to assist them with getting what they need in the area. We care about all of the residents, including part time, snowbirds and full time residents, and just want everyone to stay safe.

Our population grows to over 500,000 during our summer festivals. That includes hotels and summer homes and cottages. There is no way our hospital and public health systems could handle that volume if the trajectory of cases keeps climbing.

If people are coming from areas with widespread transmission of COVID-19, those areas are higher risk than ours, so we are asking them to do their part for their sake and ours. We are urging people to stay home downstate. However, we cannot tell them they can’t come up here.

Having said that, we are telling them they should (not recommending) quarantine for 14 days. They could be a carrier and not know it. There are cases where positive COVID-19 patients were asymptomatic.

We do not have the capacity that our Detroit area and southeastern Michigan hospitals do, not even close. It’s only suited to handle our average population, which is around 90,000.

Imagine the summer during the National Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival, our population booms to 500,000 during each respective event. Now, that’s with hotels at capacity, not just vacation homes and cottages filling up. But there is no way our healthcare system could handle even our average population if we see community transmission like we are seeing downstate.

It’s not just the healthcare, it’s our food chain supply, it’s personal protective equipment, there just won’t be enough resources for our year-rounders, let alone from the surge of those heading north.

We need those wanting to come up here to self-quarantine. Get creative and modify your lives when you arrive, so you don’t have to go out in the public. Use grocery delivery services, Instacart or Shipt. Bring as many supplies and food as you can from your other home.

This is the only way we are going to control the spread, by the full participation of the population. Overall, people just need to stay home, stay safe and save lives!

Do these things: Wash Your Hands. Cover coughs and sneezes. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. If you are sick, stay home.

– Wendy Hirschenberger, Health Officer, Grand Traverse County Health Department

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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  1. As Michigan residents and voters, we hope to return to our home in Old Mission. We winter in Utah where four of our children and their families live. We do not plan to leave for the mitten until Pres. Trump and Gov. Whitmer say the coast is clear and the danger is past. Since the President and the Governor do not appear able to agree on anything, we might not leave Utah for home for a long time. But when we do arrive, we plan to self-Q for 14 days for sure. We have been self-Q’ing in Utah County since March 14 since we are savvy seniors and want to play it safe. We take this pandemic very seriously and will not risk the health of our friends in our great state of MICHIGAN!!!!!

  2. My husband Bob and I are also self quarantined, in Florida. Going on 4 weeks now and yes, we are still married! We are highly responsible and will come back to Old Mission when the virus slope is flat lined, but are willing also to do a 2 week “stay at home”. Actually, looking forward to it!

  3. We have self quarantined and safe in NYC, but will be hitting some Florida beaches for a few days of rest on the way back to N mich. With the speed limit suspended due to pandemic, it should be a quick trip!


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