By Jon King /

Local health officials say that while more residents are getting their vaccinations, rates of COVID-19 are again surging.

The Livingston County Health Department’s latest COVID-19 report indicated that cases have again begun to rise “at an alarming rate.” The surge in cases is accompanied by a test positivity rate that has almost doubled over the past month along with related hospitalizations. For the two-week period ending March 25th, there were 12 hospitalizations, double the number for the previous two weeks. The current test positivity rate in Livingston County is 9.3%, a sharp rise from mid-February’s 5.3% and marginally higher than the State of Michigan’s 8.9%.

Additionally, the health department says that a rise in cases is being seen among school-aged children, with both club and school sports-related outbreaks included. Those factors have created a “great concern” about the possibility of a dramatic rise in cases after the Spring Break holiday “given increased travel and gatherings, with the potential to place in-person schooling at risk.”

Adding to the situation is the fact that the Health Department has identified multiple cases of COVID-19 B.1.1.7 (also known as the “UK Variant”) in Livingston County. The B.1.1.7 variant is more transmissible than the common strain of COVID-19 and could be fueling the recent spike in the Epi Curve, or the rate of infection. In Livingston County, there are currently 313.7 daily cases per million, a nearly four-fold increase from mid-February, when there were 79.5 cases per million. That has placed Livingston County in the highest risk category, “E”, similar to neighboring counties in the Detroit region.

Meanwhile, the LCHD says they are working with community partners and local laboratories to increase access to COVID-19 testing for Livingston County residents. Anyone who may be experiencing symptoms or who has had recent exposure to an individual with COVID-19 is encouraged to seek testing, “especially with Spring Break around the corner.”

Despite the recent increase in cases, officials say that COVID vaccines represent “hope on the horizon for the end of the pandemic.” More vaccines have recently been available to Livingston County residents thanks to a combined effort between LCHD, local healthcare partners, and multiple pharmacies. As of March 23rd, just under 25% of all county residents are reported to have received a vaccination, while 55% of those 65 and over have as well.

The Health Department also thanked Chilson Hills Church for their partnership in allowing LCHD to expand vaccination clinics. It is also worth noting that while there have been 153 total deaths from COVID since the start of pandemic. There have only been three reported from March 1st to the 25th, while there were 24 reported over the 28 days in February.

But with that long-term optimism, comes short-term caution as officials note, even with the COVID-19 vaccine becoming more readily available, the fight against COVID-19 isn’t over. Slowing the transmission of COVID-19 in Livingston County will still require community teamwork.

They remind residents to continue to practice hand hygiene, mask wearing, and social distancing. “Without these efforts, Livingston County is likely to continue to see a surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.”