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GAYLORD — Schools in Otsego County are reporting new cases of the coronavirus as the state and Northern Michigan experience another surge from the disease.
As of Tuesday, the Gaylord Community Schools (GCS) reported two new cases at the high school, one at the intermediate school, and one each at North Ohio and South Maple elementary schools. The middle school had two new cases as of Nov. 21.
GCS has had a total of 98 cases at the high school, 34 at the middle school, 27 at the intermediate school, 11 at North Ohio Elementary, and 14 at South Maple Elementary since school opened in September.
"The numbers are higher than we would like, but we have been able to keep our schools open," said superintendent Brian Pearson.
At the Johannesburg Lewiston Area Schools (JLAS), the high school had one new case on Nov. 23 and a total of 22 cases since school started at the end of August.
Johannesburg Elementary and Middle School had two new cases as of Nov. 26 and a total of 30 cases since August. Lewiston Elementary had two new cases as of Nov. 26 and 21 cases since opening in August.
Matt Saunders, principal at the Vanderbilt School, said Monday a staff member will come off of quarantine in the next few days and there have been no student cases at this time.
At Gaylord St. Mary School, principal Jerry Belanger said one student may have a possible exposure as of Monday. Since school opened in August, four staff members and 15 students have come down with the virus.
Last week officials identified 93 new COVID-19 outbreaks linked to schools in the state which resulted in the infection of 711 students and staff.
A new COVID-19 variant of concern was classified by the World Health Organization and named omicron or B.1.1.529 on Nov. 26.
A person in California who had been vaccinated against COVID-19 became the first in the U.S. to have an identified case of the omicron variant, the White House announced Wednesday as scientists continue to study the risks posed by the new virus strain.
The new strain is prompting area health officials to urge residents to take precautionary measures to curb the spread of the disease.
"We know what it takes to prevent the spread of COVID-19," said Dr. Josh Meyerson, medical director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. "Regardless of the strain, we all need to take preventative measures to stop the spread of this disease and keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe."
The health department, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people follow prevention strategies such as wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high community transmission, washing your hands frequently, and physically distancing from others. CDC also recommends that everyone 5 years and older protect themselves by getting fully vaccinated. CDC encourages a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose for all those who are eligible.
The CDC is following the details of this new variant, which was first reported to the World Health Organization by South Africa. CDC officials expressed gratitude to the South African government and its scientists who have openly communicated with the global scientific community and continue to share information about this variant with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CDC.
"It's still early, and there is much that we need to learn about the omicron variant," said Dr. Alexis Travis, senior deputy director of Michigan Department of Health and Human Service's (MDHHS) Public Health Administration. "We know what protection measures are needed to reduce the spread of COVID and prevent additional mutations of the virus. We need Michiganders to continue to do their part to keep themselves and their loved ones safe."
Named after the Greek letter, the omicron variant is the 13th variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has received a Greek designation under the World Health Organization's classification system for variants of interest or concern.
Scientists still don't know many key details about the omicron variant, how contagious it is or whether it causes more severe disease. It's also unclear how well the current vaccines will protect people from hospitalization and death from the omicron strain.
As of Nov. 30, the Health Department of Northwest Michigan reported Otsego County had 3,947 COVID-19 cases and 67 deaths to date from the coronavirus.
As of Nov. 22, Otsego County had 3,831 COVID-19 cases and 65 deaths from COVID-19.
Antrim County was reporting 2,848 cases and 42 deaths as of Nov. 30, while Charlevoix County had 3,049 cases and 43 deaths. Emmet County had 3,985 cases and 55 deaths.
Antrim County reported 2,745 cases and 42 deaths on Nov. 22 while Charlevoix County had 2,933 cases and 42 deaths. Emmet County reported 3,829 cases and 55 deaths.
Statewide, Michigan had 1,318,123 cases and 24,090 deaths as of Wednesday, according to MDHHS. The state was reporting 1,259,261 cases and 23,315 deaths on Nov. 22.
The first two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan were reported March 10, 2020 and the first death was reported on March 19 of last year.
This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: As state, region experience another surge, schools report new cases