Rise of coronavirus in nursing homes has Muskegon County probing possible reinfections

MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – A concerning uptick in coronavirus cases among nursing homes is under investigation by Muskegon County health officials, who are exploring whether there may be some reinfections.

That’s according to Kathy Moore, director of Public Health-Muskegon County, who said she’s concerned about the continuing growth in new COVID-19 cases.

There is one known case of COVID-19 reinfection in the county, in which the two episodes of illness were about four months apart, Moore said.

Muskegon County statistics show a surge of 14 cases among individuals age 80 and older in the past week. There are another six new cases among people in their 70s.

Overall, the county recorded 74 additional cases since Sept. 30, bringing the cumulative total to 1,566. Deaths increased by two in the last eight days – both of whom were elderly patients from congregate living facilities, Moore said.

Muskegon County public health employees are working to get to the bottom of the increase in cases among people in such congregate living facilities as nursing homes and assistance living residences, Moore said.

“We don’t understand if it’s a second wave of (illness in) the same individuals, or did they get new staff?” she said. “We’re trying to understand what’s happening.”

The state requires testing of employees and residents every seven days if there’s a new positive case among them, Moore said, adding that that may not be enough.

“I feel like we may have to step back and rethink this,” she said.

There has not been a school outbreak in Muskegon County, and Moore praised the cooperation of the education community. The county’s statistics show another six cases among young people age 19 and under, but investigators determined none of the exposures occurred at school, she said.

The rise in cases among those 80 and older is the highest of any age group, and other new cases are spread among other age groups in what Moore called a “general community-wide uptick.”

COVID-19 cases by age are 159 among those under age 20, up six over the previous eight days (since Sept. 30); 270 among those in their 20s, up 11; 225 among those in their 30s, up six; 219 among those in their 40s, up 11; 256 among those in their 50s, up 13; 189 among those in their 60s, up seven; 125 among those in their 70s, up six; and 123 among those age 80 and older, up 14.

Mercy Health’s website shows there are 12 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Muskegon County. That’s up four from a week ago.

Not included in the county’s numbers are inmate cases at the Muskegon Correctional Facility, which were 1,011, or 78 percent of the total inmate population, according to statistics on the Michigan Department of Corrections website. Staff cases rose by two to 29 over the past week.

An additional inmate from MCF died of COVID-19 on Oct. 2, bringing the total number of deaths among that prison’s inmates to four, according to the MDOC.

In contrast, Brooks Correctional Facility, located across Sheridan Drive from MCF, is one of four prisons in the state reporting no COVID-19 cases among inmates. There are 31 correctional facilities in the state. Brooks has reported four cases among staff, a number that is unchanged.

Related: Muskegon prison’s coronavirus outbreak worst in the state

The Ottawa County Health Department reported 3,784 cases as of Oct. 7, an increase of 214 since Oct. 1. Deaths increased by three to 69. Of the total cases, 1,079 are in the Allendale zip code where Grand Valley State University’s main campus is located, an increase of 30 from a week prior.

Oceana County has had a total of 506 cases, up eight from a week earlier, according to District Health Department No. 10. Deaths there remain at six.


In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus.

Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible.

Use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, countertops) and carry hand sanitizer with you when you go into places like stores.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also issued executive orders requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose while in public indoor and crowded outdoor spaces. See an explanation of what that means here.

Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

For more data on COVID-19 in Michigan, visit https://www.mlive.com/coronavirus/data.

Also on MLive:

Thursday, Oct. 8, coronavirus data by Michigan county: Cases rise in 55 counties led by U.P.

Coronavirus prompts relocation of voter precincts from some Muskegon County schools

Ottawa County special education school closes after staff member tests positive for coronavirus

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