On Dec. 29, 2023, the Washtenaw County Health Department (WCHD) announced that the Washtenaw County COVID-19 community level has reached medium. The WCHD measures the COVID-19 levels through wastewater levels and hospital crowd levels.
When at medium, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends individuals at higher risk of severe illness to wear masking in indoor public settings.
Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, administrator of communications and community health promotion at WCHD, said that despite reaching medium levels, there is no reason to sound the alarm.
“We're in that time of year when people get together a lot or indoors more. So holidays being indoors are really good for germ sharing. So all those things combined have given us more activity. It's a little early to tell, but we are seeing some slight decreases this week,” Ringler-Cerniglia said.
Patricia Wells, a medical director for The Corner Health Center in Ypsilanti, had similar feelings to Ringler-Cerniglia's statement.
"There has definitely been an increase in cases, especially since the holidays. Our peaks seem to correspond to big holidays. This peak started a bit after Thanksgiving, and has continued to rise as folks return to their areas of residence, bring virus with them, and the process repeats at the next holiday," Wells said.
According to WCHD data, cases within the area started to decrease Jan. 6. However, Ringler-Cerniglia and Wells also said that despite the past decrease in outbreaks, residents should watch and see how the opening of K-12 schools and colleges will affect the numbers.
When asked if there were any concerns in regards to the increase in COVID-19 admission levels, any plans to update the EMU COVID-19 tracker, and if there were any plans to bring back mask mandates like other locations across the country, the University responded with this statement:
"The University monitors all ongoing matters related to the health and safety of our campus community and this will continue. At this time, we are not seeing conditions that would warrant any change in University policy. The most important message we can provide to students, employees and guests is to stay home if they are not feeling well. Campus members who are not feeling well should review this website to learn about options available to them."
Walter Kraft, vice president of communications at EMU, said in a statement.
According to the CDC website, the only counties in Michigan at high COVID-19 community levels as of Jan. 6 are Saginaw, Sanilac, St. Clair, Tuscola, and Huron.
The WCHD has also recently reported that from Mar. 1, 2020, to Feb. 25, 2023, 642 Washtenaw community members lost their lives to COVID-19. The report says despite the loss across Michigan, death reports were much higher.
“We continue to mourn the hundreds of lives lost in our community due to COVID,” Jimena Loveluck, WCHD health officer, said. “But we are also incredibly grateful. Our work to respond together saved lives.”
As of now, there is no data on which cities within the Washtenaw area are impacted the most.
“It's difficult for us [WCHD] to do the data analysis that's required to really dig deep. As you probably know, early in the pandemic, we saw a lot of disproportionate impact by race and also by geography. So in our local area, we've seen more severe impact in our African-American and Latinx populations. And we've seen that more in our Ypsilanti areas,” Ringler-Cerniglia said. “Over time, that has leveled out a little bit. We and others, particularly partners and leaders in our areas, have done a lot of work to make sure that people have access to information they can trust.”
"Ypsilanti remains at more risk that neighboring communities. COVID magnifies disparities. First, people tend to live in homes with more individuals per space, so may not have anywhere to isolate. We are social, and tend to gather with extended family and not think of them as exposures. Fewer people have jobs that allow them to work from home when they or their family are sick. This also means kids have to go to school even when they are sick, since parents need to go to work. It becomes an endless cycle," Wells said. "We know from the data that people who are Black are more likely to have serious illness and even die, regardless of socioeconomic status."
WCHD recommends residents wear a mask if they are sick, have good ventilation, and wash their hands to not spread the virus.
"Many people remain contagious with COVID for longer than the CDC recommends isolating. At a very minimum, if you do decide to stop isolating then please wear a well fitting mask for at least 10 days after symptoms began. Please find a primary care provider so that when you do get sick, you have someone to call. For those who are ages 12-25 (and the children of our patients), we have appointments available in person and by Telehealth Monday through Friday," Wells said in a statement.
Wells also encourages residents and students to get vaccinated and to avoid the myths and misinformation regarding COVID-19.
Individuals who have not already ordered the free at home test since Nov. 20, 2023, visit this website. For those who did not order a test during fall of 2023, there is an offer to receive two orders of a total of eight tests.
WCHD offers small packs of individual masks when individuals email them beforehand. Individuals can pickup a mask from either their Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti location.
The Corner Health Center offers the Moderna vaccine by appointment, but can only vaccinate those with insurance at this time.
For those looking for a COVID-19 test, visit the statewide testing locater.
For those looking for vaccinations near Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, check these locations.