Washtenaw Health Department: Community spread of COVID-19 likely

Thursday, March 19, 2020 - 12:54pm

Seven additional people in Washtenaw County have tested positive for COVID-19.

Seven additional people in Washtenaw County have tested positive for COVID-19. Buy this photo
Julia Schachinger/Daily

The Washtenaw County Health Department released a statement noting “community spread is likely” as seven additional people have tested positive for COVID-19.

As of 10 a.m. Thursday morning, 14 people within the county have tested positive for coronavirus, a viral infection discovered in Wuhan, China that has infected more than 218,000 people globally.

According to the Health Department’s website, the majority of the seven new cases had no recent travel or known contact with other confirmed cases of COVID-19. The website noted the department is working with these people — who are all adults — to alert close contacts to quarantine.

“Evidence of community spread means we will change how we respond to local cases, especially as the number of tests increases every day,” Jimena Loveluck, health officer of the Health Department, said in the announcement. “But, we must remember this is exactly why we have community mitigation strategies and unprecedented restrictions in place. Our collective goal remains to slow the spread of cases as much as possible. Together, we can do this. Take every possible opportunity to practice prevention and social distancing.”

Because of the expected community spread, the county will no longer name low-risk exposure areas and residents should assume there is a risk associated with any public location.

While health experts are still investigating how the disease is spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people maintain at least six feet between themselves and others. People showing symptoms are encouraged to seek medical help.

“Assume the possibility for infection exists, as it does with many common illnesses. Most people will recover at home without medical care,” Juan Luis Marquez, Washtenaw County Health Department medical director, said in the announcement. “Isolating at home if you’re sick and contacting your health care provider by phone for guidance will help prevent additional spread and make the best possible use of critical health care resources.”

Washtenaw County has approximately 370,000 residents and is home to the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.

Multiple Ann Arbor-run buildings and services have been closed as Mayor Christopher Taylor declared a local state of emergency. Ann Arbor Public Schools are closed until at least April 5.

As of Wednesday, 80 cases have been reported in the state of Michigan. The first death in the state was also confirmed Wednesday at Beaumont Hospital in Wayne County.

In response to the virus, the University moved all classes to an online format beginning Monday. Students who are able to have been asked to leave campus.

Among the 14 cases in Washtenaw County, two have been confirmed at student apartment buildings Vic Village-North and ArborBLU. Another person who tested positive works as a cook in East Quad Residence Hall.

Daily News Editor Alex Harring can be reached at harring@umich.edu.