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Community Update 12/18



This week, select hospitals and health departments across the state received their first shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The Grand Traverse County Health Department is following the priority phased approach endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Upon receiving the shipment, vaccinations began at the health department for staff directly involved with testing, vaccinating and interacting with clients and first responders in the community.

“The vaccine is critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19 and bringing an end to this pandemic,” said Wendy Hirschenberger, Health Officer, Grand Traverse County Health Department. “This is the hope that we all need to get us through the long weeks and months ahead. We must continue to mask up, wash up, practice social distancing and be kind to one another this holiday season. We are not done yet, but we now have a very powerful tool in our toolbox for fighting COVID-19.”

While the vaccine offers hope for the pandemic to be over in the future, planning for vaccine distribution continues each day. The Health Department is adding staff, establishing cold storage and transport plans, and evaluating community sites to vaccinate groups safely.

The health department will be pushing out information regarding vaccination of the Phase 1A groups initially and will continue to vaccinate based on prioritization criteria. It is anticipated that the general public will be vaccinated in the spring of 2021. We appreciate the excitement of those wanting to get the vaccine, however, we ask you to not contact the health department at this time to get vaccinated as there are priority groups that will be vaccinated initially. It will be a phased process that will take 6-9 months to vaccinate all. We do not have a waiting list.

MDHHS announces latest Epidemic Order

Based on key metrics, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued its latest Epidemic Order on Friday, December 18, 2020, allowing for recreation and entertainment venues to open such as: cinemas, bowling alleys, and stadiums with capacity restrictions and masking required. Outdoor group exercise classes and outdoor non-contact sports are also included. In-person learning for all grades k-12 are also allowed under the new Epidemic Order at the discretion of the local school district. The Epidemic Order goes into effect on Monday, December 21, 2020 and an infographic breaking down the order can be found below.

Daily Numbers

The Grand Traverse County Health Department is reporting 44 new cases of COVID-19 for Friday, December 18, 2020 and 288 cases and six deaths since Friday, December 11, 2020, bringing the cumulative total to 2,576 cases. With approximately 1280 active cases currently and 21 deaths in the last 30 days in Grand Traverse County, that leaves 1220 who have recovered.

Grand Traverse County and the Traverse City Region as a whole is at a risk level E on the MI Safe Start Map. The current 7 day average of 11.5% positivity reflects a 1 week decrease in rate and Grand Traverse County incidence is currently at 281 cases per million which reflects an increase from last week’s report. Additional statistics are available on the Health Department’s dashboard and Facebook page, which updates new case information daily at 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Regionally, Munson Healthcare is reporting COVID-19 testing results on its website for each of its hospitals. Numbers listed are by hospital, not county of residence.

Michigan has reported 491,875 positive cases and 11,868 deaths of COVID-19 as of Friday, December 18, 2020. As of December 11, 2020, 236,369 have recovered in Michigan.

Off-site Testing Offered

The Grand Traverse County Health Department is now offering free, off-site COVID-19 testing by appointment. The pop-up site located at the Cherryland Mall (1700 South Garfield Rd. Traverse City, MI 49686) provides COVID-19 testing by appointment only on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. To schedule an appointment, log on to:

New Quarantine Guidance

On December 2, 2020, the CDC updated its procedure for quarantine. Based on new research and to help lessen the burden on our communities, quarantine periods MAY be shortened from 14 days to 10 days when there are NO SYMPTOMS of COVID-19. This will help in compliance to public health orders and hopefully alleviate some stress communities are feeling while being off work or school for that lengthy period of time. PLEASE NOTE – the best way to reduce risk is to continue with a 14-day quarantine.

For best practice, the Grand Traverse County Health Department recommends keeping a journal of symptoms while monitoring yourself during quarantine. Remember even something mild like the sniffles can be the beginning of actual symptoms. Being aware of this may help reduce the overall time of quarantine.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

*Positive cases still require a 10-day period of isolation AND improvement of symptoms AND fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication in order to be released from isolation.

COVID-19 Testing

Grand Traverse County testing sites include:
Munson Healthcare Foster Family Community Health Center (priority 1 & 2 only)
Northwest Michigan Health Services (testing all by appointment)
Rite Aid at Chums Corner (testing all by appointment)
Walgreens at Chums Corner (testing all by appointment)
See Michigan’s COVID-19 test finder for more options

Testing sites have capacity and tests are available. Individuals seeking tests can call:

  • Their healthcare provider
  • The Munson Healthcare Covid-19 hotline: 231-935-0951
  • The Michigan COVID-19 hotline: 888-535-6136

If you seek testing, please remember that once you get tested you should not be going out and visiting local shops and restaurants or other public spaces while waiting for test results. Anyone who gets tested for COVID-19 must remember to stay home and away from others as much as possible until they have received a negative test result, or once they have passed their isolation period as advised by the health department if they test positive. The public should also assume the potential risk for COVID-19 exposure when going into any business and should always be wearing masks, social distancing and follow other safety guidelines to reduce the spread in Grand Traverse County.

Mental Health

Anyone having difficulties navigating life during the COVID-19 pandemic, you are not alone. MDHHS has a mental health hotline you can access for free and confidential access to counselors 24/7. Language translation is available for non-English-speaking residents who call the counseling line.

MDHHS COVID-19 Help Hotline: 1-888-535-6136, choose prompt 8.

To access other mental health resources for coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, visit


The day shelter at Safe Harbor that is operated by Goodwill is open from 8:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Safe Harbor’s overnight shelter opened on Saturday, October 31 and is currently looking to add more volunteers. If you or someone you know may be interested, reach out to volunteer coordinator, Brad Gerlach by emailing: or fill out the application online.

Senior Center

The Senior Center Network and the Commission on Aging each have disposable masks available for seniors in Grand Traverse County. Parties may call either office to arrange for curbside pick-up or could be mailed upon request.

Senior Center Network: 231-922-4911
Commission on Aging: 231-922-4688

Stay Safe to Stay Open

Residents, businesses, and visitors are encouraged to Stay Safe to Stay Open. This includes the following measures while in public:

  • Staying 6 feet apart from others
  • Wearing masks while indoors our even outside when you are unable to maintain social distancing
  • Limiting large social gatherings – not hosting or attending large gatherings
  • Continuing basic prevention measures like frequent hand washing
  • Following workplace safety protocols
  • Daily monitoring of yourself for symptoms including your temperature (even if you feel fine)
  • Staying home if symptomatic – even if it is just very mild symptoms
  • If others in your household have tested positive or are symptomatic, stay away and take extra precautions to not become infected.

Businesses and individuals can download Stay Safe to Stay Open resources and get additional information at the website and communication templates and graphics on the Traverse Connect website.

About the JOC

Grand Traverse County’s Joint Operations Center has been meeting to coordinate efforts and communication on the COVID-19 pandemic since Friday, March 13. Members include key community partners from health, government, first responders, education, social service, and business sectors.