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CORUNNA — The Shiawassee County Health Department Tuesday said COVID-19 cases continue to increase at near-record rates, and more than the typical number of deaths were reported.

“COVID-19 cases this week are similar to what SCHD saw last week,” Health Director Larry Johnson said. “There have been 417 new cases and five deaths since the case count report on Nov. 17 — a six-day period.

“With the increased COVID-19 and flu cases, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued a face mask public health advisory recommending all Michiganders, regardless of vaccination status, wear a face covering while in indoor public settings,” he said.

On Nov. 17, the health department reported 441 new COVID-19 cases over the preceding seven days — a pandemic record total.

In addition to the continuing rise in cases, the five deaths reported over the past six days is among the highest single-week totals of the pandemic. Eight deaths, with several found via record checks, were reported Oct. 27. Prior to that, no more than three deaths had been reported in a single week since Feb. 3.

“As of (Tuesday), the county has seen a steady increase in positive cases over the last four weeks,” Johnson said. “The current positivity rate is 25.7% with a case rate of 1,028 cases per 100,000 people. These are the highest numbers we’ve seen since the pandemic began in March 2020.

“Additionally, Memorial Healthcare reported 30 COVID-19 positive in-patients, the highest number since the pandemic began. This is placing a strain on hospital staffing resources and the hospital has moved to a ‘Red’ COVID-19 risk level. The majority of these patients are unvaccinated,” Johnson said.

The hospital reported 30 patients, two of whom are in the ICU. The facility is at 75% capacity. The hospital is limiting visitors, requiring facemasks and taking other precautions because of the high case volume and community spread.

In the region including Shiawassee County, there are 376 hospitalized COVID patients, including one child, 88 in the ICU and 38 ventilated.

In a video posted on YouTube, hospital CEO Brian Long said community and employee COVID cases have been at or near record numbers recently, and he urged the public to take action.

“The numbers are clear,” he said in the five-minute video. “Those who are vaccinated are far less likely to contract COVID; and if infected, are more likely to experience mild symptoms.”

MDHHS Monday said there were 17,008 new cases from Saturday to Monday and 83 deaths. There have been 1.26 million cases and 23,315 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Johnson said the numbers are trending in the wrong direction when there is an effective vaccine and boosters available for free.

“We believe this is due, in part, to a large percentage of our eligible population that is not vaccinated (45%) and the fact that people have pandemic fatigue and are letting their guard down regarding public health mitigation measures,” he said. “Although we have seen an increase in vaccine breakthrough cases, they are much less likely to be hospitalized or result in death. Essentially, this is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

According to the CDC Data Tracker, only 47.8% of county residents are vaccinated, including 55% older than 12. Just 57.4% of those older than 18 are vaccinated.

Johnson said the SCHD is reminding everyone they need to keep COVID risk reduction in mind during the holiday season.

“We need to continue to protect our most vulnerable and those who are still at higher risk of severe COVID complications,” he said, “such as our elderly and those immunocompromised.”

People should considering wearing mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status; practice social distancing; wash hands frequently; open windows to allow airflow; get tested, continue taking precautions; stay home if you are not feeling well; and get vaccinated.

“Let’s show each other compassion and kindness especially as we move into the holiday season,” Johnson said. “Family members or friends may have different comfort levels with traditional parties and get togethers, but we can get creative and try our best to support one another as we move through another phase of this pandemic.”

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