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U.P. virus cases span all ages, mostly men

ESCANABA — As a new surge of COVID-19 cases make their way across Michigan and the rest of the United States, even the remoteness of the Upper Peninsula is not enough to stop the virus from taking root locally.

“The Traverse City, Jackson, and Upper Peninsula regions all have under 20 cases per million people per day, but they have also all seen a steady increase in cases for the past two to three weeks. It’s important to note here that the Upper Peninsula, which had previously seen consistently low levels of cases, is now seeing the highest rate of cases seen throughout the entire pandemic,” said Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, chief medical executive and and chief deputy director for health for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Thursday during a livestreamed press conference with Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Here’s a profile of Upper Peninsula COVID-19 cases on one given day.

Across the Upper Peninsula, there were 254 confirmed cases of the virus by Friday and 18 deaths, according to the state of Michigan. Of those cases the largest number of cases have been among individuals between the ages of 60 and 69, though U.P. cases have stretched the gamut with 20 cases between the ages of 0 and 19 and 32 cases affecting residents 80 and older.

The just over 50 percent of infected individuals in the U.P. have been women. However, as is the case nationwide, more Yooper men have fallen victim to the virus, with 61 percent of the peninsula’s 18 deaths being men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 53.8 percent of deaths across the U.S. have been men — a figure echoed by the state’s report of 52 percent.

Despite a disproportionately high number of Black Michigangers being infected or dying from the virus — roughly 30 percent of cases and 39 percent of deaths, despite Blacks making up 14 percent of the state’s total population — the largest number of both infections and deaths across the state were white residents. Statewide, 27,705 cases, 41 percent, were whites, who made up roughly 42 percent of deaths .

In the U.P., 196 infections were white residents, 14 were “unknown” according to state classifications, 26 were of multiple races, and 14 were American Indian or Alaskan Native descent.

The number of American Indian or Alaskan Native cases in the U.P. stands in sharp contrast the the total number of cases for that demographic group across the state. Statewide, only 279 cases have been reported among these populations, or .004 percent of all cases. In the U.P., roughly .5 percent of U.P. cases for which demographic data is available were classified as American Indian or Alaskan Natives — 12.5 times the statewide average.

Of the 18 recorded deaths in the U.P., 17 were white, with only one other case reported as “unknown” by the state. That “unknown” death originated in Delta County and was the only non-white case the county had seen as of Friday.

Sixteen of Delta County’s confirmed non-fatal infections were men, with the other 10 being women, and of the three deaths, two were male and one was female. Each of the three deaths were from the top three age categories: 60-69, 70-79, and 80 and over. No county level data on non-fatal infection age ranges has been made available by the state.

Testing for the virus in Delta County began on March 16, when a single test was administered and the largest number of tests were administered on May 24, when 87 diagnostic tests and 2 serology tests — which check for antibodies indicating previous COVID-19 infections — were performed. In total, Delta County has had 2,281 diagnostic and 147 serology tests administered as of Friday.

Demographic information is not currently available from Schoolcraft County. However the county had seen seven confirmed cases and no deaths as of Friday. Testing began March 19 with a single diagnostic test and, as of Friday, 501 diagnostic tests and 27 serology tests have been performed. The largest number of test performed was on June 19, when 106 diagnostic tests were administered.

In Menominee County, 38 cases have been reported, with no cases resulting in death. Twenty-nine of the cases were white residents while the remaining six cases were individuals of multiple races. Males made up 53 percent of cases with 20, and females made up the remaining 47 percent with 18 cases.

Testing in Menominee began on March 11 with a single diagnostic test and testing reached a high on June 23, when 91 diagnostic and tests were administered. As of Friday, 869 diagnostic tests and 24 serology tests have been performed in the county.

While numbers in the Upper Peninsula have been lower than in other areas of the state, the virus has presented unique challenges for local hospitals, which have lower capacities than hospitals in the hard-hit metro areas of Lower Michigan.

In the Upper Peninsula, there are 581inpatient hospital beds and 96 ventilators, according to the state. Of those ventilators, 86 were available as of Friday.

Also as of Friday, 74 COVID-19 patients had been discharged from U.P. emergency rooms, 1 was in critical care, and no patients were on a ventilator. In total, two COVID-19 patients were currently receiving inpatient care.

One of the inpatient individuals was a patient of UP Health System while the other was being treated at Dickinson Memorial Health Care System.

Both systems, as well as OSF HealthCare St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group and Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital, have instituted restrictions on visitors.

Beyond access to beds and ventilators, hospitals around the country as struggling to secure enough personal protective equipment, but the U.P. is better positioned than other regions of the state. As of Friday, OSF St. Francis Hospital, UP Health Systems, Dickinson Memorial Health System, and Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital each had 21 days or more of N95 masks, surgical masks, surgical gowns, shields, and gloves.

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