School closings, hospital visits and more: What to know about the coronavirus in Muskegon 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urges communities to take aggressive precautions against the coronavirus on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of the governor’s office.

As the coronavirus spreads throughout the country and schools across Michigan close or shift classes entirely online, major events are canceled, and hospitals prepare for an influx of patients, Muskegon officials and organizations say they are keeping a close eye on the infectious disease and what it could mean for this area. 

“We all know that it is real; it’s serious,” U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland), whose district includes Muskegon, said during a phone call with constituents on Wednesday evening. “The spread of where this virus is going is very significant.”

The coronavirus is a new pathogen that can cause a fever, cough and shortness of breath and which is 10 times more fatal than the flu, according to Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In the worst coronavirus cases, patients’ lungs will fill with so much fluid that no amount of breathing support can help, and the patient dies. 

The virus is believed to be spread primarily from person-to-person and between people who are in close contact with one another—about six feet. The virus is passed through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Nobody in Muskegon County has tested positive for the coronavirus—of which more than 125,000 cases have been reported globally and which has caused more than 4,500 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the United States, there are about 1,700 reported cases of coronavirus and 40 coronavirus-related deaths, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported. 

In Michigan, state health officials said there are 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement Tuesday evening that there are coronavirus cases in Michigan, she declared a state of emergency as communities across the state prepare for what health officials said could be a virus that is likely to grow exponentially, as places such as Italy—which is undergoing a national lockdown because of the coronavirus—China and Seattle, Washington have experienced.

In light of all of this, what does the infectious disease mean for Muskegon? 

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, said during a press conference on Wednesday that communities need to take aggressive precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, otherwise known as coronavirus.

“Michiganders have been preparing for COVID-19 for weeks, including by taking basic measures such as washing their hands often, covering their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing, and staying home when they are sick,” Khaldun said. “However, Michigan must take further action to avoid a rapid increase of cases in the state. Community mitigation strategies are crucial to slowing the transmission of the virus in Michigan, particularly before a vaccine or treatment becomes available.”

To slow the spread of coronavirus, the state is recommending communities and individuals do the following:

  • Learn about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. [Click here for a list of symptoms.]
  • Stay home when you are sick. Individuals at risk of severe illness should consider staying at home to avoid others who are sick.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, keyboards, cell phones and light switches.
  • Be sure to maintain a supply of medications, food, and other essentials in your house.
  • Cancel or postpone large gatherings (gatherings of more than 100 people), conferences and sporting events.
  • Reduce in-person gatherings and activities, especially for organizations with individuals at risk of severe illness. Consider offering video or audio of events.
  • Consider tele-learning or tele-work opportunities, where feasible.
  • Limit non-essential work travel.
  • If you care for a loved one living in a care facility, monitor the situation, ask about the health of the other residents frequently, and know the protocol if there is an outbreak.
  • Limit visitors at hospitals and other facilities to only those who are absolutely necessary and implement screening of visitors for temperature and respiratory symptoms.

To see the full list of recommendations, click here

At a press conference on Wednesday, Whitmer urged “all Michiganders to take these recommendations seriously and to share them with their friends, families and coworkers.”

“We are encouraging schools, universities, businesses, and other organizations to use their best judgment about what steps are most appropriate to keep people safe and slow the spread of the disease,” Whitmer said.

Following news of the coronavirus, shoppers have been purchasing large amounts of toilet paper from local grocery stores, including this Norton Shores Meijer. Photo by Anna Gustafson

We have compiled a list of information about Muskegon officials and institutions that have responded to the coronavirus; we will add to the list as more information becomes available. 

Public Health Muskegon County: The county health department is providing updates about the coronavirus in Muskegon, including the number of patients that have been tested for the virus, on its website. To see the information the county health department is providing information about the coronavirus in Muskegon, please click here.

All K-12 school buildings in Michigan will close: The governor announced Thursday night she is ordering all K-12 school buildings–public, private and boarding–to close from March 16 through April 5. See more information here.

Spectrum Health:  While Spectrum isn’t in Muskegon, it is offering free COVID-19 screenings for anyone in the state of Michigan. You can schedule a free screening by calling (616) 391-2380. For more information, please click here.

Muskegon St. Patrick’s Day Parade canceled: JCI Greater Muskegon, the nonprofit that organizes the annual event, announced Thursday morning that the parade is canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus. For more information, click here.

Michigan Irish Music Festival St. Patrick’s Party canceled: The MIMF’s St. Pat’s Party, which had been scheduled for March 13 and 14, has been canceled. For more information, please click here.

Muskegon Community College suspends in-person classes: MCC is suspending all in-person classes beginning at 4pm Thursday, March 12. This is expected to go through April 3. For more information, please click here. To stay up to date on MCC coronavirus updates, you can go here.

Muskegon Lumberjacks games postponed: The Lumberjacks games scheduled for March 13, 14 and 17 are postponed. For more information, please click here.

West Michigan Symphony postpones concerts, events: WMS Executive Director Andy Buelow said Thursday, March 12 that the symphony will postpone a series of upcoming concerts and events. Click here for more information.

Inaugural Dan Raymond Invitational Indoor Motorcycle Ice Races canceled: Organizers of the March 20 event originally scheduled for the Mercy Health Arena in downtown Muskegon have canceled the event. See more information here.

The Muskegon Risers March 21 game postponed: The March 21 game will be postponed until the 2020/2021 arena soccer season. Those who have already purchased tickets will have their tickets honored for the rescheduled game. For more information, click here.

Mercy Health: Mercy Health has set up a page specifically dedicated to information about the coronavirus, including information about visitor restrictions. To view the page, please click here.

In response to state health officials, Mercy Health is instituting the following visitor restrictions:

  • One visitor per patient at a time
  • No visitors under 14 years of age
  • Do not visit if you are sick

All visitors should:

  • Wash their hands with soap and water frequently, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Use a tissue to cover any coughs and sneezes
  • Assess their own health, and if at risk for illness or have any symptoms, stay home

For general information about the coronavirus, visit the state’s page here and the CDC page here.

If you know of other organizations or institutions responding to the coronavirus in Muskegon, please let us know and we’ll add it to this article. You can reach us by emailing Muskegon Times publisher and editor Anna Gustafson at muskegontimes@gmail.com.

Story by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. You can connect with her by emailing muskegontimes@gmail.com or on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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