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UP hospitals almost at capacity, officials say COVID protocols need to be followed to control variant

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The following release is from Marquette County Health Department Health Officer Gerald Messana and UPHS-Marquette CEO Gar Atchison:

To the Marquette County Community,

The Marquette County Health Department (MCHD), and UP Health System-Marquette would like to make the public aware of the recent strain the COVID Omicron surge is placing on the capacity of our medical care facilities and what you can do to protect yourself, your family, friends, and our community.

COVID-19 has torn through our country, our region, and the healthcare systems in our state with a ferocity we have never seen in our lifetime in healthcare. Like most healthcare facilities in our region, our area hospitals are overburdened and operating at the very edge of capacity. Data shows how the virus continues to spread dramatically across the state. Marquette County, along with the entire Upper Peninsula, is at risk level High due to the more than 35% test positivity rate during the week of January 5 – 11, 2022 –but together, we have the power to slow it.

Amidst the ongoing pandemic, our local health care facilities continue to care for traumas and other emergencies such as heart attacks, strokes, accident victims, births, and those with serious illnesses requiring hospitalization. As the regional referral center, UP Health System - Marquette is often where patients needing a higher level of care are sent.

As medical professionals, we have seen firsthand the unique effects this virus can have on our patients—including long-lasting side effects that can significantly impact one's quality of life. We've also observed how increases in cases of COVID-19 patients can put a strain on the entire health care system, from our fellow medical staff, to nursing, to environmental services, and more.

This increase, combined with our current load of trauma and transfer patients in need of care across the Upper Peninsula, makes us deeply concerned that our hospitals are quickly reaching capacity. Already we have difficulty relying on transfers to academic medical centers in nearby regions because they are full. It is critical that we work together to slow the spread of COVID-19 and avoid further straining the healthcare system in the Upper Peninsula.

What Our Community Can Do

If we are going to beat this virus, we must all continue taking every possible precaution to slow the spread of illness - including wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, continuing proper hand hygiene, and most importantly getting vaccinated against COVID-19 - this has been proven to greatly reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization caused by the virus. When ALL of these measures are consistently practiced, they will help lower the transmission rate and reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in our community:

1. Get vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19. Visit MqtHealth.org to find vaccination and testing opportunities.

2. Get vaccinated for the flu.

3. Protect yourself and others. Stay home when sick, except to seek medical care.

4. Do not delay the necessary care you need. Our healthcare teams have the safety precautions in place to care for you.

5. Get tested for COVID if you don't feel well or you are exposed to someone with a COVID-like illness.

6. Follow CDC isolation and quarantine guidance.

7. Wear a mask in indoor public or other crowded spaces, including schools—preferably N95/KN95 if tolerated.

8. If you test positive and are at risk for severe complications of COVID, discuss possible treatment options with your medical care provider, which can reduce the risk of severe illness and hospitalization by 80% or more.

9. Be smart, responsible, and kind.

On behalf of our dedicated healthcare teams in Marquette County, we urge our communities to take COVID-19 seriously and do their part to help keep our community healthy and safe. These are the most basic of public health mitigation strategies to protect your health, your community, and assure local medical care is available to all in need. We must work together. All of us need to take the personal responsibility to make this happen.