COVID hospitalizations low in UP

About 29 people in the Upper Peninsula were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Sept. 16, according to Frontline UPdates. Local COVID rates are lower than in many more populated areas.

EagleHerald Staff Writer

MENOMINEE—The Delta variant of COVID-19 is prompting area residents to get vaccinated and tested, but it’s not sending many people to the hospital, experts said.

While many parts of the nation have reported a shortage of intensive care unit beds and attributed it partly to a surge from the Delta variant of COVID, this area hasn’t seen large numbers of COVID patients needing intensive care.

In the Upper Peninsula, 28 people were in the hospital with COVID-19 on Sept. 15, including 12 in intensive care units, according to Frontline Updates, an information center that collects and shares data on COVID-19.

But county data from Johns Hopkins University, based on government statistics, suggests the numbers are even lower: One person each in Delta County and Marquette County were in intensive care in the Upper Peninsula as of Sept. 8. In Marinette, six people were in the hospital with COVID out of 83 hospital patients, and just two COVID patients were in intensive care.

Mike Snyder, health officer at Public Health for Delta & Menominee Counties, said a “truer indicator” of COVID levels is the number of cases extrapolated to a population of 100,000.

Using this measure, Menominee County’s COVID rate per 100,000 is 11,043, lower than Delta County’s rate of 13,082 and Dickinson County’s rate of 12,386, but higher than Marquette County’s rate of 8,375, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 database.

Menominee County’s rate is lower than nearby Wisconsin counties. Marinette County’s COVID rate per 100,000 is 12,882, while Brown County’s rate is 15,014 and Door County’s rate is 11,488.

A shortage of intensive care unit beds nationally might not be due to COVID. Some hospitals are short on beds because they don’t have adequate staffing levels to cover them, said Sara Giles, marketing director at Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital in Manistique. “Unfortunately, most of our hospitals are experiencing staffing shortages. When a bed cannot be staffed, it is not counted as being available. We are seeing a high uptick in RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) cases across the state and in the UP. ER visits are also up,” said Giles who also manages communications for Frontline Updates in the Upper Peninsula.

“We lack sufficient EMS personnel and transfers to larger facilities has been difficult as of late,” she said.

Regarding COVID, Stephenson Mayor John Starzynski said people in Menominee County continue to take precautions. “There’s still people concerned, yes definitely,” he said.

“It sounds like there’s a fair number of people vaccinated and businesses are open. Hopefully they will follow the necessary guidelines to continue to stay open and stay safe,” Starzynski said.

“The death rates are pretty low,” he said. “There’s been a little bit of an uptick in the area with Delta, but for the most part people are getting through it and life is moving on.”

Snyder said current COVID rates are down from peak levels in January. “Currently in Menominee County, the seven-day positivity rate is 11.2%,” or about 84 cases in the last seven days, he said.

In the nation as a whole, reported COVID-19 cases fell about 13% in the seven-day period ended Sept. 8 to 136,558, but the number was 99% higher than in July 2020 when 68,527 cases were reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

COVID-19 levels peaked nationally in January 2021, the CDC said, when 254,016 cases throughout the U.S. were reported. In June 2021, 11,613 cases were reported in the U.S., the lowest week since COVID-19 cases began being tracked.

More people are getting tested for COVID now than they were a year ago, Snyder said.