Michigan officials warn against traveling Up North to escape COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 2:26 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 16:27:13-04

(WXYZ) — As Michiganders deal with COVID-19 and the state lockdown, some of in the metro Detroit area have considered spending the quarantine period away — Up North. Lots of nature, fewer crowds, less reported cases of the virus.

The idea seems smart, but Northern Michigan officials, worried about limited resources, and an already spreading virus, warn against the idea.

"Our situation was not that we don’t have any COVID-19 cases, we do. Our resources are just considerably less than what larger metropolitan areas have," Gaylord Police Chief Frank Claeys said.

The community, which is in Otsego County, has 8 confirmed COVID-19 cases and several likely positives.

"I don’t know each and every case but I know there is considerable concern of community transmission from those cases, to think that Northern Michigan is going to be absent of this pandemic is just not very realistic," he added.

The virus alone is scary. Fears for locals, however, are compounded by the idea of increased foot traffic by out-of-towners looking to quarantine out of the city.

"Our grocery stores, our supply chains, in general it’s proportional to the size of the community that we are. If we saw an extremely large influx of people it would potentially overbear on our grocery stores, our supply chain, all of that," Claeys added.

It’s not just supply chains at risk, but hospitals.

"It’s certainly not going to be some place that you can avoid it, and in the event that you do become sick you’re certainly going to be subject to much more limited medical resources here in Northern Michigan," he said.

While Chief Claeys knows he cannot ban people from coming to their vacation homes, he is clear that movement — especially to more rural regions of the country — come with increased risks.

"I don’t think that it helps for any of us to make any necessary trips outside of sheltering in place. I don’t think that if you run into a situation where you need supplies or medical care that you improve your situation by coming into a smaller community," he said. "You might actually find yourself in a worse situation in terms of care that’s available or supply that’s available.

The state of Michigan currently has 2,856 cases of COVID19, with 60 confirmed deaths, as of Thursday, March 26. While a large portion of the confirmed cases have been in the metro Detroit area, Chief Claeys believes northern Michigan is just a few weeks behind.

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