HANCOCK, Mich. — The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department recommended increasing COVID-19 precautions as the area continues to see a rise in cases and transmission. According to state and local data, four out of five counties are now classified a substantial or high transmission risk.

The Delta variant continues to be detected in Houghton and Gogebic counties and has now been detected in Baraga county, health officials said.

Aligning with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, WUPHD now recommends that when a community is experiencing substantial and high transmission levels, everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a face mask in public indoor settings to help prevent spread of the Delta variant and protect others.

The health department said wearing a face mask is particularly important when attending indoor public gatherings and where social distancing is not able to be maintained.

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Given the community transmission status change, the health department also encourages businesses, community and faith based organizations and event organizers to consider the latest public health recommendations when determining risk mitigation strategies for employees, customers, community members and events.

Health officials said research shows that the COVID-19 vaccines provide protection against the Delta variant and most people who experience a breakthrough infection after being fully vaccinated report mild or no
symptoms, with an extremely low risk of hospitalization and death.

Past infection with COVID-19 does not assure protection from the Delta variant, so people who have had past COVID-19 infection are still strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, according to the health department.

“When providing guidance and recommendations to our community about which COVID-19 mitigation measures may need to be in place, we are taking into consideration many local factors, such as the current rate of COVID-19 transmission, our health system’s capacity, vaccination coverage, testing and which populations may be at risk,” Kate Beer, WUPHD Health Officer, said. “The best way to protect yourself, your family and your community from COVID-19 and the Delta variant is to get vaccinated.”

Beer said that a layered protection strategy should be followed to ensure a healthy environment, “allowing all WUPHD residents the best chance to remain healthy and physically present at work and in the classroom setting.”

Such strategy should include the following risk mitigation measures:

  • Receive the COVID-19 vaccine, if eligible
  • Wear your face mask while indoors
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Maintain a distance of six feet from others
  • Stay home when sick and get tested for COVID-19
  • Adhere to isolation if you test positive for COVID-19 or quarantine if considered a close contact

At this time, 53% of WUPHD residents over the age of 12 have initiated vaccination for COVID-19. Vaccinations can be scheduled with local providers by calling your local health department office, your physician’s office, or by visiting www.coppercountrystrong.com/vaccine.