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Washtenaw County COVID cluster includes restaurants, camps, a retirement community

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Washtenaw County health officials say a large house party in the Saline area over the Fourth of July weekend has led to a spike in COVID-19 cases that is rapidly spreading as infectious people exposed others at “retail stores, restaurants, businesses, canoe liveries, clubs, camps, athletic teams and a retirement community.”

As of Monday morning there were 43 confirmed cases, and at least 66 close contacts who were then exposed to them, according to the county. 

“We’ve also had several people that traveled out of county or out of state, [and] potential exposures there,” says Susan Cerniglia, the Washtenaw County Health Department public information officer. “Another important thing to point out is we're not a full 14 days out from this event. So we're still seeing the cases coming. And I think most people hopefully know by now it can take up to 14 days after an exposure to see symptoms to become ill.”


Most of the cases are between the ages of 15 and 25. And while the county’s contact tracers have been largely successful in reaching people so far, “that dynamic is changing,” Cerniglia said, possibly because of the age of those infected. 


“We are having a little more difficulty with some of these calls, because folks aren't taking this seriously, and aren't concerned, either about themselves or the spreading. There's kind of a cultural thing about answering phone calls that you don't know, or returning those phone calls. And I think there's also this perception I think that young people were less vulnerable."


Cerniglia says they expect the case count to keep increasing, as well as the severity of illness.  


“It's our estimation that if the current trend continues, we'll start to see that measure of more serious illness in the next couple weeks. We'll start to see those hospitalizations increase. And it may be a month out before we start to see death rates increase, because it just takes time for o that impact."


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Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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