A vacation for some, testing for all

A medic with the Michigan National Guard Task Force 182nd performs no-cost COVID-19 tests for residents in Munising, Michigan. Those who chose to do so will get the results from their county health department after a week. (Photo by Michigan Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Tegan Kucera)

Story By Staff Sgt. Tegan Kucera

Michigan National Guard

MUNISING, Mich. – For many Americans, summer means, summer vacations and what better place to vacation at than Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
This year, however, tourist are bringing more than just their swimsuits and fishing poles, many of them are unknowingly bringing the coronavirus with them. The county health department has a plan in place for this.
“Alger County has not had public testing like this, not open testing where it’s drive-through for the public,” said Josh Mickelson, the logistics coordinator for the LMAS District Health Department.
The health department, that represents four counties, was offering free drive-through testing last weekend. By testing, the department can learn who in the area has COVID-19, this allows them to then conduct contact tracing.
“We need to know who has it, where they’ve come from and who they’ve been around, so that way we can get a better grasp and hopefully slow the rate of spread,” said Mickelson.
It is important to slow the spread, Michigan has done a good job so far, by slowing the rate of transmission, but last week for the first time in over two months, the state again had over a thousand new cases in one day. Many of these are thought so have come from the July 4th Diamond Lake party that made national news. It shows that while many in the state have been carful, it only takes a few for the state to have another outbreak.
“Now that tourist season is open, Alger County is a huge hot spot in Michigan for tourist,” said Michelson. “We are allowing out of state people to come though testing too, that’s not a normal thing.”
Michelson said it was important tourist be tested, because they can spread coronavirus it in Michigan, the same as at home.
“Tourism season is a little scary, when you look at other states, everybody’s regulating it differently,” said Michelson. “At this point you don’t know what they have been doing, it’s a little bit worrisome.”
To help relieve some of the worry, is Task Force 182nd with the Michigan National Guard. The Task Force has been going around the state conducting tests on any of the citizens who choose to take one. In the UP they had more traffic than even the health department was expecting, showing the desire to take the test is strong throughout the state be they locals or tourist.
“The importance of us testing here is the fact that there are people from all around flocking to the area, so for us to test those people is important because they are combining in common tourist areas,” said Staff Sgt. Clinton Marshall a team leader with Task Force 182nd.
The drive-through event was held at the county’s road commission’s garage, which was good as the morning started with rain showers. The Soldiers were free to do the test without having to worry about things getting blown away or wet. They were able to focus on the people they were there to provide for.
“They all thank us, they are just as happy to have us here as we are to be here,” said Marshall.
This is the first state mission Marshall has ever done in his 16 year career, he volunteered for it because he’s hoping that the more people helping the faster we will all get back to the new normal.
“Coming into it I was overwhelmed, I’m very grateful for all the support of my team, because without them I would not be able to do my job,” said Spc. Melissa Bellgreen with Task Force 182nd. “I just try to stay grateful, so that I don’t come off as cocky or anything.”
Bellgreen is one of the medics with the Task Force, she is one of those who has conducted thousands of tests the last couple of months to the public at large in the form of drive-through tests or to the much needed long term care facilities and even in the prisons.
“It’s saddening, because as much as we do, until there’s a cure there is not much we can do on the frontlines, we can provide testing, but we can’t stop it.”
By wearing a mask and practicing social distancing all Michiganders can do their part to beat back the spread of the coronavirus, because no one wants to be the new epicenter.

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