A scenario public health experts feared as the state reopens for business is starting to surface: People from areas of higher rates of infection are traveling to areas of lower rates of infection in pursuit of normalcy, risking spreading coronavirus along the way.
Two out-of-state residents visiting Grand Traverse County tested positive for the illness this past weekend, days after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer permitted northern Michigan bars, restaurants and shops to open their doors to the public.
The pair reportedly came to the county to see family and were exhibiting symptoms; according to the Traverse City Ticker. One is hospitalized and the another quarantined in a hotel room. Six of their family members are also now quarantined and under monitoring by the health department. Health officials say they do not believe the pair came into contact with others.
Grand Traverse county has just 23 Covid-19 cases and five deaths, state data shows.
Speaking on Friday to Deadline Detroit, University of Michigan epidemiologist Emily Martin said that while she generally agreed with the state’s incremental approach to reopening, she was concerned about potential Covid-19 carriers traveling to places that had just opened.
“The caution at the top of my mind is that northern Michigan and the UP have low rates and other areas of the state don’t, and I think we need to all be mindful that we’re not spreading virus from high areas to low areas,” she said. “Those areas being open carries with it some risk of (spread).”
Leading up to the reopening, northern Michigan establishments got attention from customers in areas with higher case loads and restrictions, with bar owners telling The Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press that they’d been fielding calls from downstate and beyond.
Whitmer’s "Safe Start" order, which took effect May 22, allows northern Michigan restaurants and bars to serve the public at 50% capacity.