Washtenaw County Health Department reports first local COVID-19 death

Sunday, March 22, 2020 - 4:02pm

The Washtenaw County Health Department reports that a man died at Michigan Medicine Sunday morning, marking the first local death from COVID-19.

The Washtenaw County Health Department reports that a man died at Michigan Medicine Sunday morning, marking the first local death from COVID-19. Buy this photo
Allison Engkvist/Daily

The Washtenaw County Health Department announced that an elderly man with underlying health conditions passed away at Michigan Medicine on Sunday from reasons attributed to COVID-19 in a press release Sunday afternoon. He was hospitalized Saturday and is the first person in Washtenaw County to pass away from the novel coronavirus.

Jimena Loveluck, health officer of Washtenaw County, expressed her condolences to the family of the individual and urged everyone to follow community mitigation and prevention measures. 

While we know there are no words that can lessen this family’s grief and our community’s loss and fears, his death is an urgent reminder to all of us,” Loveluck wrote. “We must act now and act together to protect everyone’s health to the greatest degree possible.”

There are currently 35 COVID-19 cases in Washtenaw County, with 1035 cases in Michigan total as of Sunday afternoon. 

According to the press release, there is evidence of community spread locally. Community spread refers to the spread of the virus for which the source of the infection is unknown.

“Testing is ongoing,” the press release reads. “But, with so few tests completed and so many pending, everyone needs to take precautions, practice prevention and assume potential exposure in public locations.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer temporarily closed all Michigan bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and other places of public accommodation on March 16 to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Michigan Medicine is asking for donations of protective gear to help protect health care workers and patients from COVID-19. Community members can drop off new or unused items such as disposable face masks, N95 masks, hand sanitizer, bleach or microbial wipes and disposable gloves at the North Campus Research Complex. 

Employees and patients of Michigan Medicine who think they may have been exposed to the virus can go to the hospital for curbside screening. At these screening centers, hospital employees will swab the patient’s nose, and the sample will then be sent to outside labs for testing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wash their hands often and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth. The press release also encourages everyone to stay at home except for essential tasks such as getting groceries or seeking medical care. When out, individuals should maintain a six feet distance from one another and avoid any gatherings. 

Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Anyone who believes they have been exposed to COVID-19 should call their primary care physician. Individuals can also contact their local health department, which in Washtenaw County can be reached at 734-544-6700.

Daily News Editor Claire Hao can be reached at cmhao@umich.edu.