Aspirus, WUPHD discuss impact of COVID-19 case surges in Upper Peninsula

Western UP

UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – The Upper Peninsula has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

As of October 13, Michigan has 152,864 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 3,500 of those being lab-confirmed cases here in the U.P. Houghton and Delta counties have the highest combined confirmed and probable cases. For confirmed/probable case numbers, deaths, and recovered cases by county, you can visit the Michigan Coronavirus site.

With K-12 and university students back in class and with fall tourism, Kate Beer, the health officer for Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, said these in-person gatherings contributed to the surge of cases.

On October 3, a mass COVID-19 testing site was held in Houghton for the community in partnership with the Michigan National Guard and other local healthcare providers. 669 people were tested, with 28 tests that came back as positive for the coronavirus. Beer said the high volume of people requesting to get tested was much higher than expected, which lead to them running out of test kits and having to retrieve more during the clinic.

“So right now, we’ve actually gotten into a better routine of communicating with our hospital partners and healthcare partners in their area. And right now, they are telling me that they feel good about their staffing, they feel good about their ability to manage the cases that we currently have,” said Beer.

Aspirus has locations in Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, and Ontonagon counties.

Asprius Ironwood and Keweenaw have older facilities they can move COVID-19 patients into in case of a larger surge of patients needing in-hospital care. Between all four Aspirus locations, there are 30+ ICU beds, with about 60 percent currently occupied by non-COVID-related patients as of October 13. As for coronavirus case numbers currently, there are six confirmed cases and two probable throughout its U.P. locations.

One of the biggest issues Aspirus is running into is making sure its staff is taking care of.

“It’s not that burnout but it’s that continual environment that we’re in,” said Chris Harff, the Aspirus Upper Peninsula Regional President. “It gets wearing for everyone, I think we see it in the general public with the frustration as well, and it’s totally understandable. And our staff worries about bringing it home to their families even though they’re safe. It’s just a scary time.”

Asprius is providing COVID-19 drive-through testing at all of its locations. Call its COVID hotline at 844-568-0701.

Healthcare providers are advising if you have a non-COVID-related emergency, to not hold off seeing a physician, and to seek medical care.

For a statewide tracking of available PPE and beds, click here.

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