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Northwest Michigan health departments urge more coronavirus testing

COVID19 drive through testing
(Photo by Ken Morris/Courtesy of Meharry Medical College
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The health officer for two public health districts in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula urged more people to get tested for the novel coronavirus. In a news briefing on Thursday, Lisa Peacock said the number of people getting tested was trending downward.

State data show testing for the novel coronavirus has dropped about 13% in the last two weeks in the counties covered by the Northwest Michigan and Benzie-Leelanau health districts.

Peacock said that was concerning, because even though the number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 in her health districts was growing, it was still “not anywhere near” the level needed for herd immunity.

She said until that level is reached – a senior state health official recently put it at 90% of the population – the virus will continue to spread.

Peacock said about 15% of the population in the Northwest Michigan and Benzie-Leelanau health districts had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

With 85% of the population still not having received a single dose of the vaccine, she said, “we still need to know who is positive so that we can quickly get them isolated and their close contacts quarantined.”

Testing numbers have been falling in many parts of Michigan since January, and many labs are able to return results in less than two days, according to data from the state health department.

State officials, including Peacock, said labs have excess capacity, and people can be tested for almost any reason. “Whether they have symptoms or they have a potential exposure, or even if they’d traveled, gone to a big gathering, and there’s really just any reason that they feel they need to be tested, we welcome those tests,” she said.