The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department will turn it’s attention away from contact tracing.  WUPHD officials believes there are more cases of the Omicron variant in the region than are reflected in the department’s weekly reports. This is, in large part, due to home tests, which are not officially recorded by the department. During a WUPHD meeting on Monday, Chief Executive Kate Beer said she’s certain there are more cases in the region, even though the official counts seem to have  plateaued.

“We’ve had this Omicron surge here. We’ve kinda seen that plateau a little bit, as the variant has spread through the district here. We’ve, I’ve, talked to the contractor to see if we [they], can run the tests in our lab, and they refuse. They are a federal contractor. So, also the Michigan Tech lab is closed, for testing for PCR tests, for COVID.” – Kate Beer, Chief Executive WUPHD

The department has seen a downturn in testing capability with the loss of the MTU testing lab. Beer said the department generally does not get results from tests sent to the area’s federal contractor until the CDC’s 5-7 day quarantine guidelines have passed. This makes tracking the number of cases in the region, and containing the virus even more complicated.

“We’ve seen the impact of the home tests that are out there now. Those really are not reportable or counted. So when we look at the numbers for the weekly case counts, they are higher than what we are seeing. But we have no way to contact trace people, and people are burnt out. We’ve had to back off on that, pretty much. But we are still doing it in the schools, because contact tracing is still required under the epidemic orders.” – Kate Beer

Beer said apathy is a major reason why contact tracing among the general public is no longer an option. Many residents who test positive are not providing the necessary information to the health department. She said people in the area are feeling burnt out by the pandemic, even though the region saw an additional 846 cases, last week. And 513 of those coming from Houghton County alone. Contact tracing will continue in facilities where it’s federally mandated, including schools, nursing homes and jails.

Community Action Agency – Houghton does have FREE KN95 masks available for pick up. 10 packs of masks, are available for pick up at their office located at 926 Dodge St. in Houghton. Masks can be picked up from 10am – 3pm Monday through Friday. Please contact the Community Action Agency by phone at 906-482-5528, with any questions.

WUPHD Testing and Vaccine Clinic Locations

Mondays in Lanse from 10am – 3pm, 303 Baraga Ave., Lanse, MI 49946

Tuesdays in Ontonagon from 10am – 3pm, 408 Copper St., Ontonagon, MI 49953

Wednesdays in Ironwood from 10am – 3pm, 213 S Marquette St., Ironwood, MI 49938

Monday-Friday in Hancock from 10am – 3pm, 821 Water St., Hancock, MI 49930 (Only location offering vaccines and boosters)

WUPHD’s Most Recent COVID Report

CDC Vaccine Fact Sheet

mRNA Vaccine How it Works in the Body