By Jessica Mathews/

Probable cases of COVID-19 are now being reported in Livingston County, and soon to be statewide.

The Livingston County Health Department began reporting probable cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is expected to start reporting probable cases in the near future. As of Tuesday, there were 362 confirmed cases, 86 probable cases and 20 deaths in Livingston County. County Public Information Officer/Health Promotion Coordinator Natasha Radke tells WHMI the number of confirmed cases in Michigan and Livingston County is understood to be an undercount so the new data aims to help improve that and give a better picture of what’s actually going on with COVID-19.

Probable cases of COVID-19 disease are individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19, but have not been tested, and meet one of the following conditions within the past 14 days: They have been in close contact with a laboratory confirmed case or close contact with another probable case of COVID-19, they have been in close contact with a symptomatic contact of a laboratory confirmed case, have traveled to an area experiencing sustained, ongoing community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease), or are people within the community who public health authorities consider more likely to be exposed, such as health care workers or people living in group homes. As local health department staff investigate confirmed cases of COVID-19, individuals who were in contact with and may have been infected by a confirmed case are identified. Those contacts are then interviewed to determine if they’ve developed symptoms and meet the definition of a probable case. Once a probable case is identified, they’re asked to self-isolate and local health department staff begin the process of identifying their close contacts.

Access to testing for COVID-19 has been limited for many in Michigan so the reporting of probable COVID-19 cases is intended to provide a more accurate picture of the COVID-19 outbreak within the local community. Radke says they want people in the community to understand what probable cases are but also so people aren’t alarmed when they see a sudden bigger case count. She says it can be startling but they’ve known that the number of confirmed cases was really only showing part of the larger picture. It’s up to an individual to get tested. Radke says they have had probable cases that became confirmed cases once individuals get tested but it just depends on what each individual choses or what their primary care physician recommends that they do.

Livingston County Medical Director Dr. Juan Marquez says stopping the chain of transmission is vital to keeping the community safe. He says identifying persons who may have been exposed and asking them to stay home for a period of time can slow the spread of disease in the community and save lives. While seeing how many additional people in the community are likely to have COVID-19 can be worrying, officials say there are still steps residents can take to protect themselves. The Health Department strongly encourages residents to continue taking preventive actions, practicing social distancing, and remaining at home as much as possible to help slow the spread of COVID-19. More information on probable cases can be found at in the attachment and on the Health Department website. That link is provided.