Macomb County Health Department Director Bill Ridella calls efforts to combat COVID-19 “multifaceted and agile.” As of Sept. 1, the health department reports 12,343 cases, with 7,831 recovered, and 926 deaths.

Macomb County Health Department Director Bill Ridella calls efforts to combat COVID-19 “multifaceted and agile.” As of Sept. 1, the health department reports 12,343 cases, with 7,831 recovered, and 926 deaths.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

A look at where Macomb County stands in coronavirus efforts

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published September 2, 2020


MACOMB COUNTY — It was nearly six months ago when Macomb County announced its first presumptive positive case of COVID-19.

As of Sept. 1, the Macomb County Health Department reports 12,343 cases; 7,831 recovered; and 926 deaths.

Online, data are updated daily during the week by the county health department and Macomb County Planning & Economic Development.

When asked to describe what efforts have been like from the health department to combat the virus, Bill Ridella, director/health officer at the Macomb County Health Department, called them “multifaceted and agile.”

“Throughout the course of the pandemic, we have had to quickly formulate and operationalize multiple solutions and resources to address the public health needs based on the evolution of the knowledge base and mitigation strategies related to COVID-19,” he said.

Ridella added that the health department is currently operating a county-wide call center; a drive-through testing site; conducting case investigations and contact tracing; facilitating congregate care testing; supporting nursing homes with PPE, infection control guidance and testing; and, in partnership with Wayne State University Physician Group, along with cities and townships in Macomb County, it is hosting numerous one-day testing events.

“A key strategy we have undertaken is to cross-train department personnel to enable them to address new and evolving staffing needs,” Ridella said.

An example is that, in March, April and May, when testing became more widespread, the department had an immediate need to expand its case investigation and contact tracing capabilities. That resulted in the communicable disease team of seven nurses, who normally handle routine infectious disease contact tracing, being expanded to 60 department staff.

So far, the month of April saw the most COVID-19 cases reported in the county, with 3,429. That was followed by August, with 2,847 cases.

May and June each saw fewer than 800 cases, with 793 and 529, respectively.

Over 192,000 COVID-19 tests were administered in Macomb County through the end of August.

Thanks to additional federal funding, the department hired temporary nurses to supplement case investigation and contact tracing efforts.  

Macomb County Health Department Communications Specialist Scott Turske acknowledged that it is a difficult time, and the department continues encouraging people not to attend large gatherings, to maintain social distancing and to wear a mask.

“Right now, we don’t have a vaccination for it, and some of these tools are the only things we have available,” he said.  

In regard to COVID-19 deaths by month, April experienced the largest number, with 600 deaths. The only other month with over 100 deaths was May, with 167. This summer, 49 deaths were confirmed in June, 19 in July, and 22 in August.  

A chart outlining COVID-19 indicators used to track MI Safe Start risk phases, show that Macomb County’s seven-day death average as of Aug. 18 was 0.3 — lower than Oakland and Wayne counties and the city of Detroit. Where Macomb County ranked the highest out of those municipalities was in the seven-day average cases per million people, with 55.7, and over 7% for the seven-day average for positive tests.

These numbers are provided by the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services.

Ridella said COVID-19 testing in Macomb County has gone from a seven-day average of about 1,300 tests per day, per million population in early July, to over 2,400 tests per day, per million in late August.    

He attributed cases rising by over four times, from June to July, as a result of Michigan’s Stay at Home order being lifted on June 1, when the entire state of Michigan was moved to Phase 4 of Michigan’s MI Safe Start plan.

By age group, those in their 50s represent the largest number of cases, with about 2,050. That is followed by folks in their 20s, with 1,868 cases.

In regard to deaths due to COVID-19, those 80 and older account for 431 of the 926 deaths.

In the future, Ridella believes the COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered for the “tremendous efforts, dedication and commitment of all of the professionals and staff at hospitals, EMS providers, long-term care facilities, local public health departments and other first responders.”    

In Michigan, the state reports 102,468 cases and 6,480 deaths, as of press time.