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Genesee County health director explains coronavirus surge, possible data error

The County is not dealing with one large outbreak, rather several small outbreaks of the coronavirus.
Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 5:34 PM EDT
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GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - (10/22/2020) - “People are just closer together now. And so, the spread of the infection happens easier,” Genesee County’s Health Director John McKellar said.

He wants to remind the community social distancing is key as the third surge of coronavirus hits Genesee County.

With people spending more time indoors on cold and rainy days, it’s important to remember COVID-19 is still a threat.

ABC12 News has been watching the numbers; and reporting them on air and online every day. The high number of cases for the City of Grand Blanc caught our attention.

How could a City of about 8,000 people make up more than 12-percent of Genesee County’s cases?

McKellar said there may be an issue with how the state pulls in the data.

“We’re looking into that. We have a fairly high suspicion that actually the city and township numbers might almost be reversed,” he explained.

And, McKellar said that might be the case with other cities and townships with the same name here in Genesee County.

“So, whether somebody lives in Grand Blanc or Grand Blanc Township, their address is usually Grand Blanc, zip code is the same. And so, a lot of that data may be pulled, as just Grand Blanc. And somehow, it gets put in the City category,” he explained,

It’s an issue McKellar plans to iron out before he retires in the coming weeks.

But he points out, what we’re seeing in the County during this 3rd surge is multiple small outbreaks, which he’s linked to weddings, homecoming celebrations and football game watch parties.

The Health Director said as it’s getting colder, people are spending more time indoors and so the risk is higher.

“On average, every positive case has about four close contacts. That means people that have been within six feet of them for 15 minutes, that are at risk for getting sick, too,” McKellar said.

So the Health Department contact tracing team connects with those people and requests that they quarantine for up to 14 days. Earlier in the year, McKellar said the average was around 3 people impacted for every positive case.

So he’s asking you don’t let your guard down now, especially with Halloween coming up.

McKellar said there won’t be trick or treaters at his house. It’s too risky.

“Cloth masks, not Halloween masks are important. Yes, definitely, those tried and true things masking, social distancing, avoiding close gatherings are really what’s going to get us through this until there is a vaccine,” he said.

McKellar is expected to retire at the end of the month.

Click here to learn more about who the County Board of Commissioners appointed to replace him.

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