First cases of COVID-19 reported in Genesee County

GENESEE COUNTY — John McKellar, Genesee County Health Officer, reported March 20 the county has confirmed the first four cases of the COVID-19 virus here, but was hesitant to give further information as to potential risk to others in the county.

By Tuesday, that number had risen to 23 people infected, with nine hospitalized.

He said the original four sought outpatient health care at different facilities and indicated they are following standard procedure of patient privacy but checking with those facilities to ensure they were following proper protocol.

McKellar said the health department is also investigating if they may have had other patients who could have been exposed during the visits.

Questions were raised at the press conference that revealed gaps in the reporting system used to update the State of Michigan, with McKellar saying it is the responsibility of the testing lab to report, but that they suspect there is some testing between doctors and labs which might not be getting reported to or entered in the state monitoring system.

All four individuals, three females aged 15,22 and 35, and one 54-year-old male, were stable and self-isolating at home, McKellar reported.

He said at this time they don’t know the travel history or potential exposure locations but are doing the ‘contact tracing’ via interview to determine who they have had close contact with and will follow-up with those individuals directly.

“This news is probably frightening,” to Genesee County residents McKellar added, but he added he hoped people would not panic, but continue to follow the guidelines. He said they knew eventually they’d have cases and he urged residents to continue to practice safe behavior such as social distancing, hand washing, covering coughs, avoiding touching your face, and working from home if they can.

He recommended people not use the emergency room, especially if they have a compromised immune system, as they could be exposed to other illnesses at ER that could worsen situation. He added, if a resident doesn’t have healthcare, he suggested the use of urgent care first, but if symptoms are mild, contact the primary healthcare provider first for guidance.

The cases are not believed to be blood relatives, but four individual cases and that other people were potentially exposed.

He said if it becomes necessary to announce where those locations were, they will, but for now are relying on contacting individuals known to have been in contact with those infected.