JACKSON, Mich. — Close to 37,000 people gathered at Michigan International Speedway to watch their favorite country music artists play two weeks ago at Faster Horses Festival.
Now, at least 23 of them have tested positive for COVID-19, a reminder that the pandemic isn't over yet.
Lenawee County Health Officer Martha Hall believes that number will grow.
“There has been one COVID-19 case in Lenawee County associated with the Faster Horses Festival,” Hall said. “Given that there were individuals in attendance at the festival when they were infectious, it is likely there will be additional cases associated with the festival. We encourage COVID-19 testing for anyone that attended the festival that is not fully vaccinated or has symptoms of COVID-19.”
Michigan Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun says she understands the desire for a complete return to normalcy, but risks are still there.
“I certainly understand the desire for people to want to get back to normal,” Khaldun said. “I certainly share that desire as well and so I do understand. We have put out guidance around what people should be doing. There is no mask mandate, for example, for people either indoors or outdoors quite frankly. So, I think it's just important that everyone understands their risk, particularly people who are unvaccinated [need to] recognize that they could be carrying the virus and they should be cautious.”
There has been a slight uptick in COVID cases recently in the state overall after a peak in March.
In Jackson County, there are 4.8 new daily cases of COVID on average. Hillsdale County is at less than 1 new case per day. Lenawee County which includes part of the speedway campgrounds is at 2.1 average daily COVID cases. The Lansing area has seen almost 8 new daily cases on average.
“I'm certainly concerned about the direction that our cases are going in right now,” Khaldun said. “We're seeing a general increase in cases certainly not the surges that we've seen across other states across the country. We're seeing our percent of cases that are positive tests that are positive going up as well.”
The rise started about three to four weeks ago, according to Khaldun.
“For the first time last week, we started seeing an increase in the number of people who are in the hospital being treated for COVID-19. So, even though we are not quite where we were with our surge that we had this past March and April, we are certainly starting to see our cases trending in the wrong direction,” Khaldun said.
According to the department of health, they have identified four variants in Michigan including the Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma strains.
Data from the department of health shows the predominant variant in Jackson County is the Alpha or B.1.1.7 with 173 confirmed cases. The same is true in Hillsdale County with 15 confirmed cases.
More variants of COVID will continue to rise if more people don’t get vaccinated, according to health officials.
But, recently the World Health Organization identified the C.37 Lambda strain of COVID-19 as a “variant of interest.” The first case of the Lambda variant was found in Houston.
“The most important thing we can all do to end this pandemic as quickly as possible is to simply get vaccinated," Khaldun said. "Everyone who's age 12 and up is eligible to be vaccinated. It's easy to get a vaccine. You can contact your primary care provider. There are pharmacies. There are so many places where you can get a vaccine at this point as the single most important thing that people can do to help us end this pandemic.”
Getting people vaccinated is easier said than done with COVID vaccination protests happening across the state.
To incentivize people to get vaccinated state officials developed the “Mi Shot to Win” sweepstakes. People can register to win money if they have received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. There is still a $2 million prize as well as $50,000 daily drawings.
Almost 63 percent of Michiganders have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. 53.6 percent of Jackson County residents have completed their vaccinations. Meanwhile, 36.8 percent of Hillsdale County residents are fully vaccinated. Lenawee County has seen 45.7 percent of its residents fully vaccinated. In Ingham County 54.6 percent of its residents have completed the process.
“I'm also pleased with the progress we've made with our vaccination efforts,” Khaldun said. “More than 5 million people have gotten at least one dose of one of the three safe and effective vaccines so, while I’m certainly concerned about the direction our cases are going there is a reason to be optimistic.”
Khaldun still feels positive in the direction the state is headed overall.
“We do have three safe and effective vaccines. Even though we do have these more easily transmitted variants including the delta variant the vaccines are effective against that delta variant so all is not lost. We have the tools that we need. It's just a matter of we need people to continue to step up and get vaccinated not just to protect themselves but to protect the entire community,” Khaldun said.
Health officials urge people to get tested for COVID if they attended Faster Horses. The festival took place from Friday July 16 through Sunday July 18.
Want to see more local news? Visit the FOX47News Website.
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.
Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox.
Select from these options: Breaking News, Severe Weather, School Closings, Daily Headlines, and Daily Forecasts.