EagleHerald Staff Writer

MENOMINEE—With the Delta variant’s rise in Menominee County, the area’s relatively low vaccination rate for COVID-19 is becoming a larger concern, the public health department said Tuesday.

Menominee County’s seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate was 13% as of Tuesday, compared with 11% as of Sept. 16, said Mike Snyder, health officer/administrator at Public Health of Delta & Menominee Counties.

It’s lower than the 15% positivity rate for the Upper Peninsula but higher than the 13% positivity rate for Michigan.

“We want to see that positivity rate at 3% or lower, so we’re quite a ways from our goal,” Snyder said, noting that many people in Menominee are going to CVS for COVID tests but the lab results are reported to the county.

As of Oct. 11, Public Health tallied 2,428 lab-confirmed COVID cases, 703 probable cases of COVID-19 and 44 deaths in Menominee County. “If anything, the actual number of cases in Menominee would actually be higher due to some people being asymptomatic or some deciding not to get tests or using a home test kit and those don’t get reported” to the county, Snyder said.

Even if people have already had COVID, it’s important for them to be vaccinated to prevent a recurrence, said Dr. Robert Yin, a retired gastroenterologist from Escanaba who now works for Public Health.

The COVID-19 vaccination rate of 48% for this area is lower than other parts of the state. Vaccines are available by appointment Thursdays at the Public Health office in Menominee and at CVS.

The COVID booster for those at high-risk will be available today (Wednesday) from 9 a.m. to 3:30 Central Time at the Pullman House/Whistle Stop Restaurant, N2190 US 41 in Menominee.

“What we’re seeing is the younger population not being vaccinated at the same rates as older people,” Snyder said. While a vaccine for those under 12 isn’t available yet, those ages 12 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, he said.

About 17% of those ages 12 to 15 are vaccinated, Snyder said, compared with 71% of those 65 to 74. The reason for the difference is the shorter length of time the vaccine has been offered to the younger group. Vaccines were given first to older adults and those in high-risk categories.

“Younger people tend to be a healthier population,” Snyder said. When younger people come down with COVID, often the severity of the case is less than it might be for an older adult.

Vaccines and boosters are important to combatting the spread of COVID, Yin said. “Vaccines are extremely advantageous. They have an over-90 percent rate of prevention of COVID,” he said.

Boosters are designed to sustain the antibodies needed to fight COVID in older adults and people at high risk, such as those over 85, front-line workers, and people with asthma, cancer or other diseases or who are taking immune-suppressing medication, he said.

While a COVID vaccine for children younger than 12 is not yet available, Yin recommends children get vaccinated when the shots become available in this area later this year or in 2022.

Often COVID is spread through families, Yin said. While children might not get a severe case, they could pass it on to someone who is more susceptible. “You have middle-aged people who have not gotten the vaccine, people in their 60s who have not gotten the vaccine. Those are the people who are ending up in the hospital,” Yin said. While Menominee County doesn’t have a hospital, Yin said, in Delta County eight of 25 beds have COVID patients.

This time of year, when flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) also are making some people ill, Yin said, people should also consider getting a flu shot. This year, four different strains of influenza are expected to hit. The symptoms for COVID, RSV and influenza are similar, Yin said.

“All of these diseases have similar presentations,” Yin said. “It’s a difficult thing for the doctor to distinguish between all of these and figure out which disease it is.”

But in many cases, they are treated the same. Your doctor will probably recommend plenty of fluids to keep you hydrated and plenty of rest. The doctor also might suggest taking a medication for a runny nose. If the illness worsens, patients should return to their physicians to determine if a bacterial infection, such as pneumonia has set in.

RSV primarily affects babies and young children because adults build up antibodies to this disease. Different strains of the virus can cause colds or the flu. COVID also is a virus, but it can weaken the lungs “to the point where they get bacterial pneumonia,” Yin said.