Oakland County launches COVID-19 case map

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published March 30, 2020

 Find the interactive map for Oakland County at oakgov.com/covid.

Find the interactive map for Oakland County at oakgov.com/covid.

Screenshot from oakgov.com

OAKLAND COUNTY — On March 30, Oakland County Executive David Coulter again stressed the importance of stopping the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic during a press conference to announce a new interactive case map.

Overnight, the number of deaths in Oakland County doubled — from 29 to 59. After the 1:30 p.m. press event, which county officials livestreamed on Facebook, another death brought the total number of deaths to 60, ranging in age from 36 to 92.

“Please, please, please stay home. Follow the governor’s orders. Take this seriously. We have not reached our peak yet,” Coulter said. “I’m an optimist at heart, and I know we will get through this, and we’re going to get through this together, but we don’t know how long that will take.”

The map, which is now available at oakgov.com/covid, shows where those who tested positive for COVID-19 reside by ZIP code, not where they contracted the virus.

“Just because a community has more or fewer cases is not an indication of the relative safety in these communities,” Coulter said. “We’re going to see (the number of deaths) rise significantly this week, as well as positive cases, so we need to brace for that.”

He said COVID-19 is in every community in the county and, no matter where residents live, everyone must continue to take precautions against spreading the virus — especially if they must go out — including social distancing and stringent hygiene.

While officials cannot explain why one community may have higher numbers than others, contributing factors may include access to testing, access to health care or an as-yet-unidentified situation, Coulter said.

“Although there may be a higher rate in a certain city, village, township or ZIP code, that is not necessarily where they were exposed,” Oakland County Health Officer Leigh-Anne Stafford said.

The map uses the total population of a ZIP code and the total positive cases in the ZIP code to provide a rate — the darker the color of a particular ZIP code, the higher the rate of COVID-19 cases.

The county website also offers a dashboard that shows total cases, cases by gender, cases by hospital admittance, cases by age and hospital admittance, deaths, deaths by gender, and deaths by age group.

Both the map and the dashboard will be updated daily with numbers as the county receives them, officials said.

“The hospitals have me concerned because they’re reaching their limits. Our health care providers are doing everything they can, but we’re entering a critical week where they’re going to be at capacity,” Coulter said.

He said the county is working with state and federal groups to identify locations where health care workers can treat COVID-19 patients after hospitals reach their maximum capacity.

The county is also in need of more personal protective equipment, such as N95 face masks, gloves, gowns and face shields, Coulter said.

While residents donated 45,000 N95 face masks, 20,000 surgical masks and 2,000 face shields after the county put out a call for PPE last week, the county still needs 200,000 N95 face masks, and hospitals are waiting on 230 critically needed ventilators, he said.

“We know that businesses in Oakland County are starting to produce these in greater numbers, but we need to do more — especially this week,” Coulter said. “My fear is that people will get dejected and feel like it’s not working and they’ll want to give up, but I would say now more than ever we are at a moment in time where social distancing, hygiene and other recommendations are more critical than ever.”

Hospitals are now seeing patients who were infected a week to 10 days ago, so the stay-at-home orders implemented a week ago will have an impact later this week and next week, Coulter said. Until then, he said, the numbers will continue to rise.

“Both the numbers and the capacity of our health systems makes me very concerned for this week, and makes me think this is going to be the most challenging week yet,” he said. “We have it within our ability to defeat this virus if we practice the things that we know we must do.”

Oakland County Homeland Security Manager Thomas Hardesty, of the Oakland County Emergency Operations Center, said the county’s response includes regional cooperation to distribute supplies to those who need it.

On March 27, he said, the county received a shipment of supplies, including face masks, gowns and booties, from the strategic national stockpile and worked with its partners to inventory and distribute them to hospitals before noon March 28.

“These amounts are really just enough to get them through a few days, and we continue to look for supplies for our first responders,” Hardesty said.

He said the county will continue to accept donations of all personal protective equipment from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at the Oakland County Farmers Market, 2350 Pontiac Lake Road, west of Telegraph Road, in Waterford Township. The county will also pick up supplies.

“We’ll take whatever we can get right now,” Hardesty said. “We will continue to also work with our local communities on planning for the future.”

As of 4 p.m. March 30, Oakland County had 1,403 confirmed cases of COVID-19, ranging in age from 14 days to 97 years old — up from the 1,391 cases reported at the 1:30 p.m. press conference.

As of 1 p.m. March 30, Michigan reported 6,498 total cases and 184 deaths.

For more information, visit oakgov.com/covid or call the Oakland County hotline at (248) 848-1000. For health questions, call the Oakland County Nurse on Call at (800) 848-5533.