COVID-19 Situation in County Stable But Risk Will Go Up

Dr. Annette Mercatante,  Medical Health Officer of the St. Clair County Health Department, updated the Port Huron City Council on the COVID-19 situation in St. Clair County at their meeting Monday night. The City Council met in person observing social distancing requirements and navigating communication while wearing masks.

Dr. Mercatante clarified some of the terminology being used to report on COVID-19, specifically the difference between confirmed and probable cases and the purposes of isolation vs. quarantine.

Confirmed cases represent patients who have tested positive for the virus, while probable cases represent those who have the clinical symptoms of the virus along with being associated with a person who has tested positive for the virus or having recently traveled to an area that has community spread of the virus.

Isolation is the practice of removing a sick individual from contact with others to prevent them from spreading the disease, while quarantine refers to keeping non-sick individuals away from others to prevent exposure to disease. Dr. Mercatante urges the correct use of both practices to keep the virus from spreading.

When looking at the data associated with COVID-19 cases, she also urged a focus on the trends that are emerging rather than individual numbers. Because of the “real time” nature of the Michigan Data Surveillance System, numbers can go up and down each day as thousands of healthcare workers across the state enter data into the system.

Important trends to consider include the steady percentage of people recovering from the disease and the county’s relatively low percentage of hospitalizations and deaths which are lower than other areas in Michigan.

As the county prepares for the gradual lifting of stay-home orders, Dr. Mercatante expressed that the data indicates less than 5% of our population has been affected by COVID-19. “When we loosen our social distancing measures and we’re not paying as much attention to staying away from each other, this virus will be transmitted again,” she said.

With only 7% of our hospital beds in the county being used by COVID-19 patients, and the resources the county has built during the stay-home order, our medical system is in a much better place to care for COVID-19 patients than it was at the onset of the situation. However, that doesn’t mean that this is over. “When we open up, there is a defined risk that goes with that. Personally, I think that we just have to manage that risk.” said Dr. Mercatante.

Reporting for WGRT – Jessie Wiegand