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Health

Rural U.P. health district says COVID-19 cases climbing sharply

COVID-19 patient in a hospital bed
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The LMAS health district in the U.P. doesn’t have any intensive care beds, so some sick patients have to wait for care.

It took the delta variant longer to take hold in Michigan’s rural Upper Peninsula. But now that it has, hospitals there are getting slammed.

The LMAS district, which covers four counties in the eastern U.P., went from just over a dozen new cases in July, to more than 300 new cases in just the first half of September.

Kerry Ott is a spokesperson for the district. She says the delta variant is so new to the area that the deaths have only just started.

“The death rate right now in September is low, but we’re only just over a month into having the delta variant prevalent in our area.”

The health district doesn’t have any intensive care beds. Ott says that means patients who need life support have to wait while hospital staff search for slots in other parts of Michigan or sometimes Wisconsin.

She says the vast majority of school districts in the area are not requiring masks, so schools have become a common place for the virus to spread.

Ott adds that earlier in the pandemic, people responded to requests to wear masks and avoid indoor gatherings. Now, she’s having trouble convincing people to show care for anyone beyond themselves.

“We understand COVID fatigue. We understand the thought that this is taking freedom away from people, but if we’re really going to embrace the rights we have in this nation, we have to embrace the responsibilities that go along with it.”