Tuscola leads upper Thumb in latest COVID surge as school outbreaks widen

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 4:36 PM EDT
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VASSAR, Mich. (WJRT) -Major increases in the Upper Thumb had a county health director pointing the finger at several emerging problem spots.

“It’s going to be a couple of weeks yet before we see the tipping,” Ann Hepfer, Huron and Tuscola County health officer, explained.

Experts on Tuesday predicted the worst was yet to come with the upper Thumb in the thick of another surge.

“We’re seeing it across the board,” she said.

Tuscola County led the charge, reporting 70 plus new cases since Friday, its highest daily total in months. Hepfer said the upward trend was driven in part by the Delta Variant, which is more contagious than the strain that made the Thumb one of the state’s epicenters for new cases a few months back. Add to that a public less willing than ever to be inconvenienced by public health guidance.

“It’s very concerning if you’re not staying quarantined,” Hepfer explained. “If you don’t go into quarantine… you’re spreading it to your other co-workers or students in classrooms.”

Local school districts, which opened their doors just a few short weeks ago, were already emerging as some of the largest problem spots.

Vassar Public Schools made the state’s outbreak list this week, which listed multiple infections linked to both the elementary and high school. ABC12 called the superintendent’s office for clarification and was referred to a letter the district sent out to parents Friday. The document, which was also posted to the District’s Facebook page, shed light on the worsening picture there, including an exhaustive effort to contact trace hundreds of kids who may or may not be sick.

“We’re not seeing very many kids that are actually wearing masks because there’s no mask mandate,” Hepfer related. “The problem with that is I’ve had parents call… they send their child to school and then their child’s bullied for wearing the mask, which is unfortunate, but that’s the reality.”

Hepfer pointed to the vaccination rate – only around 15-percent for adolescents—as another factor. One that could drive the county deeper into the red in the days ahead.

“We’re not to the top yet,” she predicted. “What’s going to happen, you’re going to see a lot more cases. That’s our prediction.”

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