The emergence of the Omicron variant throughout Michigan has made its way to the northernmost region of the state. Over the weekend the Western UP Health Department announced that the COVID variant was found when several tests were sent down state for sequencing. WUPHD’s Chief Executive, Kate Beer is certain the number of cases is under counted. She said the health department does not have access to the number of positive at-home Covid-19 tests, and the small number of tests that are sequenced to find variants could also play a role.

“Right now we have only had one confirmed in Houghton County. We would expect though, that given the rise in cases that we’ve seen in the last few days, that the Omicron would be present in the other counties. So I think we area already seeing the emergence of Omicron. And really we’re back to the basics of washing our hands, wearing a mask when you’re in crowded spaces. Trying to stay out of crowded places, and making sure you get vaccinated. Those are all huge things that can really reduce the stress on the healthcare systems in our area.” – Kate Beer, Chief Executive WUPHD

WUPHD saw an additional 396 cases in the two days that followed their weekly report.

Cases during the fall were likely the region’s delta wave, which has flowed right into the newest spike of cases for the new year. Beer says that that wave began back in July, and has caused a number of issues at local hospitals. And now with both waves appearing to cross into each other, the fear is that the beginning of 2022 will be a tough one for nurses, medical staff, the community and most of all for those seeking treatment.

“First reports seem to show that it’s not as severe, but I would caution that we haven’t seen probably as many cases as we’re going to see. We are seeing across the U.P. and across the state an increase in the number of hospitalizations. So I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the Omicron, I think it’s just starting. And, its mainly the transmission, the spread is so rapid, and that’s what we’re mainly concerned about.” – Kate Beer

While the omicron variant has been said to cause less severe symptoms in those that have gotten the vaccine and are boosted. The virus could continue to cause issues for those who work in the medical field. Beer said staff are burnt out after fighting the virus for the past two years.

The community can help healthcare workers by following quarantine guidelines if you don’t feel well. Wearing a mask indoors and in crowded spaces. And most of all getting the vaccine as soon as possible. The vaccine is still the greatest way the medical field has to prevent further illness, and loss of life. The vaccine helps a person handle symptoms of the virus, and keeps people from needing emergency treatment or hospitalization for Covid-19. She said these simple actions will help to keep people out of the hospital and decrease stress on medical staff.

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