County health officer warns of coronavirus surge




GENESEE COUNTY— In less than two weeks, Genesee County has seen its number of confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases jump from four to over 150.

With cases continuing to climb, Genesee County Health Officer John McKellar is warning that the county could see an even greater surge of the virus by mid-April.

At a press conference held last Friday, McKellar announced that two more Genesee County residents had died after contracting COVID-19, bringing the county total to four deaths at that time. All four of the county’s first deaths involved elderly males with underlying health conditions who had been hospitalized.

Over the weekend, the county reported an additional three coronavirus-related deaths. As of Tuesday morning, the county’s coronavirus death toll stood at seven.

As the metro Detroit area continues to see a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, McKellar said that the virus could hit just as hard in Genesee County if Shelter in Place guidelines aren’t followed by everyone.

“From a public health point of view, it really doesn’t matter where these cases (originate),” he said. “The message is that we should all act like one of them is our next-door neighbor…and stick to proper social distancing.”

Meanwhile, hospitals and health systems in the county are preparing to handle an increase in patients infected with COVID-19. To manage a likely shortage of beds, McKellar said that hospitals are considering a “burden-shifting” option, which would involve moving non- COVID-19 patients to other facilities— such as vacant nursing homes, arenas or makeshift field hospitals.

McKellar also said that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has handed down revised guidelines for prioritizing COVID-19 testing. Groups eligible to be prioritized for testing will include patients who are hospitalized or who have underlying health conditions; patients in long-term healthcare facilities; patients over the age of 65 with COVID-19 symptoms; and healthcare workers and first responders showing COVID-19 symptoms.

McKellar said that individuals who aren’t experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who have mild symptoms of the virus will not be approved for testing at this time.

Michigan is reporting over 6,500 cases of COVID-19 and more than 180 deaths statewide. The metro Detroit area has become a hotspot for the virus, with over 1,500 coronavirus cases being reported in the City of Detroit alone. Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, along with the City of Detroit, now account for around 80 percent of the state’s coronavirus deaths.

The Genesee County Health Department is strongly recommending that all residents:

Stay at home – Do not leave home except for essential tasks such as getting groceries or seeking medical care.

If you are out, stay at least six feet away from others and avoid any gatherings.

Wash your hands often and well, especially after being away from home.

Do not touch your face, mouth or eyes, especially when out.

Cover coughs and sneezes.

Assume potential exposure in public locations.

The Genesee County Health Department continues to provide the latest information at www.gchd.us. Michigan updates are available at www.michigan.gov/coronavirus, and national updates are at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.