Washtenaw County Health Department urges preventative measures as Omicron cases surge

Pharmacy workers gather a sample from a person in a car getting tested for COVID-19 in Mexico City, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) (Marco Ugarte, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

YPSILANTI, Mich. – Residents around Washtenaw County should take precautions as cases of the COVID Omicron variant spike, says the Health Department.

On Friday, Washtenaw County Health Department officials urged community members to use available strategies to prevent cases of severe illness and reduce transmission.

“We are entering the third year of the pandemic,” said WCHD health officer Jimena Loveluck, MSW, in a release. “We are in a very different place. We have effective tools we did not have at the beginning, primarily vaccination.”

“Our public health workforce continues working incredibly hard, but we’ve been overwhelmed for a long time now. We are doing the best we can with the resources we have. We cannot do more, and we cannot do everything. I want to be very clear that we remain focused on vaccination, and we continue to support testing as much as possible as well as ongoing information sharing – all with attention to equitable access,” said Loveluck.

Officials said that the Health Department’s recommended strategies should be taken seriously, regardless of state or local orders, as they are supported by scientific data.

Community members should use the following preventative measures from WCHD:

  • Get vaccinated against the coronavirus and booster doses when eligible
  • Wear well-fitting surgical, KN95 or N95 masks when indoors. Surgical masks layered under cloth masks offer more protection than cloth masks alone.
  • Get tested if sick, symptomatic or exposed to someone with COVID-19. Those who were exposed but asymptomatic should wait to be tested five days after exposure.
  • Avoid crowded events or areas
  • Frequently clean hands
  • Limit gatherings. If gathering, meet in ventilated spaces with well-fitting masks while maintaining a 6-foot distance.

“I know many of you are already doing everything you can – and are also hurting from loss, illness or very real pandemic fatigue,” said Loveluck. “I’m asking everyone to get vaccinated or boosted if you’re eligible and have not yet done so. Then take the additional steps we recommend to reduce spread and protect those who cannot get vaccinated or remain vulnerable.”

The Omicron COVID variant is easily transmitted and likely circulating in Washtenaw County, officials said. The department cannot currently use its resources to enforce orders within the community.

Around 70% of Washtenaw County residents ages 5 and older are currently vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Those unvaccinated or unboosted should get their needed jabs as soon as possible, officials said.

Vaccines are offered for free at several vaccination sites around Washtenaw County. Community members five years old and above can be vaccinated against the coronavirus, while those 12 and older can receive booster doses.

Vaccinations are available at the Health Department. Appointments can be made online here, but those in need of help can call 734-544-6700 or email health@washtenaw.org.

Testing is also available around Washtenaw County. Find a list here.

While the Health Department receives testing information from testing providers, it is not currently collecting home test results.

Officials noted that a COVID positive at-home test does not need to be confirmed with a PCR test or additional test. Those who test positive should wait at least five days, or when symptoms improve, before seeking additional testing, due to the demand on local resources.

Find more information and resources at www.washtenaw.org/covid19.

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.