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Two out of state visitors to Grand Traverse County test positive for COVID-19

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It is exactly what northern Michigan health officials said they were afraid of -  two out-of-state visitors arrived in Grand Traverse County over the holiday weekend with symptoms of COVID 19. One is now in the hospital after testing positive while the rest of their family has been quarantined.

 
 
Ben Thorp spoke with the director of the Grand Traverse County Health Department, Wendy Hirschenberger about the case.

Hirschenberger: We were notified by our local hospital on Saturday night that they had someone that had come through the ER that was being admitted tot he hospital that had tested positive for COVID-19. We found out through a little investigation that this person was a traveler from out of state who became symptomatic during travel. We did more investigation and wanted to make sure there wasn’t any community exposure and found they had been staying with family and that the husband was now symptomatic and there were six family members too that had potentially been exposed. We now have a husband and wife who are out of state travelers who are COVID positive.

Thorp: The family members that they visited have not yet tested positive?

Hirschenberger: No. At this point we are checking with them daily now for 14 days. They are residents of Grand Traverse County and no symptoms yet.

Thorp: What are the concerns here for community exposure? Is something like going back to check what gas stations they were at is underway?

Hirschenberger: The full investigation for the travel, which was via car, will be on the state and county health department for where they reside. We’ve been working with them and they will proceed with that part of the case investigation. From our standpoint, we were investigating to find out what the effect was locally in grand traverse county and doing what we can to protect citizens of our county. Based on what we know so far there has not been - they were not out and about in the community - they truly were here to see family. So we believe we have our contacts all identified and we’ll be seeing what the next two weeks brings for that.

Thorp: Obviously, Grand Traverse County is a huge tourist destination. Does this raise any concerns as the county is in the process of opening back up, and how do we keep people might be sick or might be becoming sick as they are en route from entering the county?

Hirschenberger: It definitely is a big concern as we are partially reopened in our region. I think the intent of the reopening was that people within the region would mingle amongst ourselves because we’re relatively low risk. So as we start to have more people coming here who aren’t from the region that does pose a risk to our community and that is a concern. Another thing is people who are contemplating having family or friends come visit make sure you’re assessing the risk that’s involved with that to your family if they are staying in your household. Lastly, certainly, if you become symptomatic while traveling, if you’re that ill that you need immediate care you would seek care where you are at, but ideally you would return back to your home and isolate there.

Thorp: Are we operating mostly on goodwill here that people are going to decide for themselves whether or not they are going to show up?

Hirschenberger: I think we are. In general what I think we’re doing all over the country as different states open and different parts open the onus is going to be on the individual to make the right choices.