In collaboration with the Western U.P. Health Department and Emergency Operation Centers in Baraga County, Gogebic County, Houghton County, Keweenaw County and Ontonagon County, Copper Country Strong Briefs will be shared regularly through the duration of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Currently, they are released on Mondays and Thursdays.
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UPDATE FROM WESTERN U.P. HEALTH DEPARTMENT
UPDATED NUMBERS FOR JANUARY 18
The previous update was Thursday, January 14. All numbers below are in comparison to that update.
- TOTAL: 101 more positives, 1 less probable positive, 38 more recoveries and 2 less deaths
- BARAGA COUNTY: 1 more positives, 8 more recoveries and 1 less death
- GOGEBIC COUNTY: 27 more positives, 1 less probable positive, 13 more recoveries and 1 less death
- HOUGHTON COUNTY: 61 more positives, 3 less probable positives and 13 more recoveries
- KEWEENAW COUNTY: 7 more positives, 4 more probable positives and 2 more recoveries
- ONTONAGON COUNTY: 5 more positives, 1 more probable positive and 2 more recoveries
Zero Visitor Protocol Implemented for Inpatients at UP Health System - Portage
For the safety of our patients, employees, and medical staff, UP Health System - Portage is implementing certain visitor restrictions. Effective Tuesday, January 19, 2021, visitors will not be permitted into our inpatient unit. Our previous limited visitation hours for inpatients of 10:00 am - 8:00 pm will be suspended until further notice.
Learn more about this at portagehealth.org/covid-19-information.
Assistance Available for Businesses Seeking New State and Federal Loans and Grants
Western U.P. organizations and local governments are offering assistance for businesses to apply for new state and local grant and loan funding programs.
The federal relief act signed into law in December 2020 will provide another round of forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA), which are offered under similar terms as those in the original CARES Act. Business owners who have already received a loan may apply for a second loan under certain conditions, based on the number of employees, income loss, and prior use of their first PPP loan. Other provisions in the act include expanded PPP forgiveness, simplified application processes, and changes to tax deductions related to the loans. The program is now accepting applications.
In Michigan, the Small Business Survival Grant Program will support businesses and industries that have been affected by the “gatherings and face mask order” and currently need working capital to support operations after experiencing a decline in revenue. Businesses that have been partially or fully closed as a result of the order and have no more than 100 employees may apply. The grants may only be used to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses, and costs related to reopening a business. Applications will open at 9 am Eastern Time, January 19, 2021.
In the U.P., this program will be administered by Invest UP in collaboration with Michigan Works!, the three planning and development regions, and local economic development organizations. A total of $631,750 is expected to be available to Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw, and Ontonagon county businesses.
Additionally, live music and entertainment venues that have experienced significant financial hardship may be eligible to apply for funding set aside through the Michigan Stages Survival Grant Program. Applications will open at 9 am Eastern Time, January 21, 2021.
Applications and additional details about these programs will be made available on the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) COVID-19 Michigan Business Resources page at www.michiganbusiness.org/about-medc/covid19/
For local information and assistance with applications, business owners may contact the following people (during regular business hours) for additional information about eligibility and/or assistance in completing applications:
- Mary Meyers, Lake Superior Community Partnership, (906) 373-9787, email@example.com
- City of Ironwood and vicinity: Tom Bergman, 906-932-5050 ext. 126, firstname.lastname@example.org
- City of Bessemer and vicinity: Charly Loper, (906) 663-4311, email@example.com
- City of Wakefield and vicinity: Robert Brown, (906) 229-5131 ext. 1003, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Marenisco and Watersmeet areas: Jerald Wuorenmaa, Western U.P. Planning & Development Region, (906) 482-7205 ext. 111, email@example.com
Houghton and Keweenaw Counties
- Jeff Ratcliffe, Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance, 906-482-6817, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mark Bromley, Iron County Economic Chamber Alliance, (906) 284-3975, email@example.com
- Richard Ernest, Ontonagon County Chamber of Commerce, (906) 884-2823, firstname.lastname@example.org
MDHHS identifies first Michigan case of new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7. in Washtenaw County
The first Michigan case of new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7. was identified in an adult female living in Washtenaw County by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Bureau of Laboratories today. The person recently traveled to the United Kingdom, where this variant originated. Close contacts of this individual have been identified and are in quarantine. At this time two new cases have been identified from close contacts with the person, but it is not known if they are infected with the variant.
B.1.1.7. is believed to be more contagious, but there has been no indication that it affects the clinical outcomes or disease severity compared to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has been circulating across the United States for months.
However, a higher rate of transmission could increase the number of people who need to be hospitalized or who lose their lives to COVID-19 should the new variant begin circulating widely in Michigan. To date, the virus has been identified in at least 16 other states and jurisdictions in the U.S. This is the only known case in Michigan at this time, however it is possible that there are more that have not been identified.
“The discovery of this variant in Michigan is concerning, but not unexpected,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and end this pandemic as quickly as possible. We continue to urge Michiganders to follow a research-based approach by wearing their masks properly, socially distancing, avoiding crowds, washing their hands often, and making a plan to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine once it is their turn.”
Based on available evidence, current tests and vaccines for COVID-19 also work against this new variant. Protective actions that prevent the spread of COVID-19 will also prevent the spread of the new variant, B.1.1.7. Michiganders should:
- Get vaccinated for COVID-19.
- Wear a mask around others.
- Stay 6 feet apart from others.
- Wash hands often.
- Ventilate indoor spaces.
Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. MDHHS’s Bureau of Laboratories is a national leader in whole genome sequencing for SARS CoV2. MDHHS identified the variant in this individual’s sample and will continue to conduct whole genome sequencing to quickly identify any variants of interest, including B.1.1.7.
Whole genome sequencing allows scientists to examine the genetic material of pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2. Over the past 10 months, laboratories across Michigan have been submitting samples to the state public health laboratory for surveillance to help monitor the emergence of any variants of concern. MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories prioritizes additional specimens for whole genome sequencing when there is increased concern for a new variant of the virus, such as in people with a travel history to places where the variant is known to be circulating.
At this time, information is limited and changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
Michigan to host COVID-19 Vaccine Town Halls
To help Michigan residents make an informed decision to vaccinate when vaccine becomes available to them, the State of Michigan is hosting a series of community town halls. The first virtual discussion is 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 21, focused on the faith-based community. Residents will have the opportunity to join the discussion with multiple faith-based and health leaders to learn about the safety, efficacy and importance of the COVID-19 vaccines for safely reopening Michigan.
Joining Dr. Khaldun, the following panelists will be part of the January 21 discussion, moderated by Dion Williams, director of Faith Based & Urban Affairs for Governor Gretchen Whitmer:
- Imam Mohammed Ali Elahi, Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights
- Rabbi Mark Miller, Congregation Beth El in Bloomfield Hills
- Bishop Charles Ellis III, Senior Pastor of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit
- Dr. Herbert Smitherman, MD, Detroit Receiving Hospital
- Reverend Lydia Bucklin, Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan
In the coming months, Michigan will also host town halls for the Black and Brown community and the general public, in partnership with public health and community leaders. To attend, residents can find the link for the virtual town halls at Michigan.gov/COVIDVaccine.
LOCAL HEALTH DEPARTMENTS CONTINUE EFFORTS TO QUICKLY DISTRIBUTE COVID-19 VACCINE
The following is a press release from the Michigan Association for Local Public Health sent on January 15
Local public health departments across the state are working as quickly as possible to ensure equitable access to a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine and supplies. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recently announced the next phase of vaccine eligibility, which includes Michiganders 65 and older, as well as certain essential and frontline workers. There are over 1.7 million people over 65 in Michigan, and an estimated 1.5 million eligible workers, but the current supply of vaccine is nowhere near that.
“We are glad to see so many people interested in being vaccinated, but the biggest obstacle faced by local health departments in Michigan right now is the limited availability of the vaccine,” says Nick Derusha, President of the Michigan Association for Public Health (MALPH). “Local health departments have a great deal of experience coordinating community partners to vaccinate large numbers of people. However, in this case, planning efforts are hindered because of the limited information available about how much vaccine will arrive each week,” said Derusha.
Vaccine appointments fill up almost as soon as they are made available, causing frustration for eligible community members as they await the release of the next group of appointment slots. Local health departments and their partners are only able to schedule as many appointments as they have vaccine doses and then they have to wait for the next shipment to arrive. Often, they don’t know how many doses will arrive the following week.
There is good news, however. In response to a request by Governor Gretchen Whitmer and eight other governors, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that they will release more available vaccine doses that have been held back. In addition, Governor Whitmer has requested permission from the federal government to purchase 100,000 vaccine doses directly from the manufacturers and is awaiting a response on that request.
It will take some time for these efforts to impact the available supply of vaccine in Michigan. MALPH urges continued patience as local health departments work closely with MDHHS and local partners to secure and distribute vaccine to eligible residents rapidly. There are now over 1,200 providers enrolled in the COVID-19 vaccine program in Michigan, and the state has made the Michigan National Guard available to assist local health departments with setting up local vaccine clinics to speed up distribution. “A lot of work has been done to prepare our communities, and as soon as an adequate and consistent supply of vaccine starts coming in, the process will definitely speed up,” said Derusha.
The public can help by avoiding unnecessary calls to their local health department. The enormous influx of phone calls can impede progress toward planning and conducting vaccination appointments and events. Community members should seek vaccine information in other ways before calling their local health department. Visit www.Michigan.gov/COVIDVaccine for links to information about the process for requesting vaccination appointments in your community.
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