Munson officials: COVID cases on a downward trend

Munson officials: COVID cases on a downward trend

MANISTEE COUNTY — The general consensus from Tuesday’s Munson Healthcare virtual press conference is that cases are on a downward trajectory, but caution is still advised.

Dr. Christine Nefcy, chief medical officer for Munson Healthcare, noted that the average COVID-19 test positivity rate for the state as a whole for the 14-day average is 22.9%. The single-day rate for the state as of Feb. 6 was 19.8%. That’s still a drop in the test positivity rate from the previous weeks, Nefcy said.

“We are seeing a slow but steady decline in the state positivity rate and again if you look at (the 19.8%) number, that to us is an indication that we will continue to see that number trend down,” she said.

However, Nefcy also said that “22% is still high, but still trending in the right direction.”

The 14-day average for Munson Healthcare is 25.5% positivity. Nefcy said that the region has a higher rate of positivity because the trend in cases lags behind the state by a couple of weeks. The single-day average for the region as of Feb. 6 was 24.1%. Nefcy said that those numbers are still a slow drop in positivity rates than the previous four weeks and that she hopes the downward trend will continue.

She noted that the number of hospitalizations remains stable with not much of a decline nor a new surge in new patients. Currently, there are 71 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the Munson Healthcare system.

The medical officer reported that 48 of the 71 are unvaccinated, and 23 are vaccinated but only six of the vaccinated are boosted. She said there are 19 patients in the intensive care unit with COVID-19 infections — 17 are unvaccinated while two are vaccinated but neither had booster shots. Six people are on ventilators, and all of them are unvaccinated.

A graph presented during the news conference shows how many people per 100 are boosted by country. The United States was very near the bottom with less than 25 per 100, and the United Kingdom and Belgium had double the rates of the United States.

Another graph showed the number of deaths per million people from COVID-19; The US was nearly double every country at above 50 deaths per million. The next highest country for deaths per million was Sweden with just over 30 deaths per million.

Nefcy said the high death rate could be attributed to the overall poor health of Americans, in terms of obesity and other co-morbidities but that the low rate of people who’ve been vaccinated and boosted is also a contributing factor.

However, Nefcy, along with the health officers in the Munson Region including Wendy Herschenberger for Grand Traverse County Health Department, Lisa Peacock with the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department and the Health Department of Northern Michigan along with Dr. Jennifer Morse of District Health Department No. 10, all focused that they have seen a drop in the number of cases in their counties over the past couple weeks.

Peacock noted that in the state of Michigan from Jan. 18 to Feb. 3, “the weekly cases per 100,000 decreased by 57%.” She said she is optimistic about the general trend.

Nefcy also spoke about the supply of Paxlovid, which is the anti-viral COVID-19 medication in pill form made by Pfizer. She noted that there are still restrictions on who can get the medication.

However, Nefcy also said that “we did just hear from the state this week (and) that they are looking at potentially loosening (the restrictions) a little bit and looking at distributing a little bit different than they are currently so we can get it out to more people.”

Nefcy also hinted at the possibility of downgrading Munson Healthcare to pandemic level orange from pandemic level red. But she said they are not there yet, having a 25% positivity rate, and well above 200 cases per week.

The Pandemic Level Red response plan calls for a 20% positivity rate or higher and below 200 or more cases per week. The pandemic response plan is as a broad plan that isnt limited to COVD.

“We are certainly seeing improvement and we try to not wait until we reach a certain point and (instead) look at the bigger picture. But we are seeing the number trend down toward where we would be for orange,” she said. “We are monitoring the data and ensuring that we are absolutely trending in that right direction, before we pull that trigger, so to speak. But we are definitely looking at that as a possibility as we trend in the right direction.”

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