GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — County health officials say they’re concerned the recent rise in coronavirus cases will soon begin to impact emergency rooms and doctors offices in West Michigan.
Tuesday night, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the first two cases of COVID-19 in the state of Michigan. There are no cases in Kent County, but health officials anticipate the virus will make its way to the area.
“We are legitimately concerned about COVID-19,” said Dr. Adam London with the Kent County Health Department. “This is a real thing and it’s going to hurt some people.”
London says COVID-19 is caused by a new strain of coronavirus that has never been seen in human populations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes coronavirus as a mild to severe respiratory illness. Symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, difficulty breathing and a severe fever. The virus is also spread person to person, so those diagnosed have likely come into contact with someone else who has it or been to a country or area where the virus is prevalent.
The health department says if a person sees symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean they need to take a trip to the hospital.
“Unless it’s an actual emergency, always call first because we’re really concerned about the safety of our healthcare workers, about overburdening our hospitals and doctors offices. It’s a major issue that we have right now,” London said.
London says the majority of people who are experiencing similar symptoms likely have the flu or common cold. He says instead of going to a local emergency room, speak to your regular physician or medical professionals at urgent care facilities to determine the next steps.
From there, a physician can determine if you have the flu or common cold. If they’ve ruled those out and believe you may be carrying the virus, the doctor will collect a sample via nose or throat swab. The swab will then be sent to the state lab for a genetic test that determines if a patient is positive.
“This will get worse before it gets better,” London said. “We know it’s going to spread within the community, but can we slow it down? That’s our goal!”
The Kent County Health Department said currently, there are not as many tests available as they’d like for there to be. The tests are currently not available at private labs and are only at the state labs. The health department says all doctors should have the capability to collect a swab sample.
Health officials are working to get more tests as soon as possible.