By Jon King /

There has been another COVID death in Livingston County, the fifth in less than a week.

According to the Livingston County Health Department (LCHD), a woman in her 70s became the county’s 40th COVID-related fatality. Two other victims were reported earlier this week by the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS). The LCHD says the 38th was a woman and the 39th was a man. All were in their 70s and had underlying health conditions.

Natasha Radke, Public Information Officer with the LCHD, says the five local deaths in a week is the most since the first peak in April. “During one week (4/23-4/30) we had 10 deaths, although the majority of these were related and in long term care. The majority of recent deaths are community based.”

According to the health department’s latest COVID-19 report, issued Friday and attached below, “Livingston County is experiencing a sharp increase in cases that far eclipses the daily number of positive cases from the first wave of COVID-19 earlier this year. This surge in cases is further confirmed by a test positivity rate that has quadrupled from the baseline rate in the summer and has almost doubled this month alone. LCHD continues to observe high hospitalization rates as well as multiple deaths per week.” Over the past two weeks, there were 1,279 total cases, a 53% increase over the previous two weeks, while the positivity rate is 13.3%, which is almost double what it was at the beginning of November.

Livingston County currently has 470 cases per million, more than twice the number of cases documented in the last report and is more than 600% greater than the peak in the first wave in March. That places the county in the highest risk category, “E”, as is the rest of Michigan. Livingston County has a similar incidence to the rest of the neighboring counties with the exception of Washtenaw County (327 cases per million).

The surge in cases has impaired the ability of the health department to investigate all positive cases that are reported to LCHD, which is “not unique to Livingston County as all health departments are struggling to keep up with the increased demand for case investigation.” As a result, the MDHHS has advised local health departments to realign their case investigation prioritization strategy. “The new strategy includes case investigation only for individuals below 19 years and above 64 years of age, as well as students attending in-person schools and those living in congregate living environments. Others are only notified of their results by the lab or ordering provider and are mailed an isolation packet from LCHD.”

With community transmission at such a high level, there is “significant concern” for an even higher spike in COVID-19 cases following Thanksgiving due to gatherings with individuals from different households. To mitigate the spread of disease, public health officials at the local, state and federal level are urging people to wear a mask, socially distance from others, wash their hands, and this year, spend Thanksgiving at home with those in their own household. “Without these efforts, Livingston County is likely to continue to see a surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths”