Environment a focus as health officials start to shift to normal operations | News, Sports, Jobs

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News Photo by Crystal Nelson
Nick Scallion, who is visiting Alpena for work, took a break with his dog Luna Tuesday afternoon at Blair Street Park.

ALPENA — District Health Department No. 4 staff are getting back to day-to-day operations as the number of COVID-19 cases decrease and interest in the vaccine wanes.

Although they continue to offer limited services related to COVID-19, public health officials are once again able to focus on its normal operations such as the monitoring of public beaches.

Environmental Health Director Kevin Prevost told the District No. 4 Health Board on Tuesday that his department will begin monitoring public beaches for E. coli starting next week.

Prevost said environmental health staff will focus on Starlite Beach and Blair Street Park in Alpena County and other beaches and inland lakes in Cheboygan County.

Prevost said the testing is important because people could come into contact with the E. coli bacteria while swimming. He said people also ingest water when they swim.

“High levels of E. coli in the water tend to make people sick,” he said.

Prevost said there are standards public health officials follow and as long as the beaches test below those standards, they can continue to stay open.

Prevost said the Health Department received funding from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy to monitor the beaches.

Meanwhile, Devin Spivey, community health director and epidemiologist for District Health Departments No. 2 and 4, said COVID-19 is now a normal reportable condition, just like the flu or any other communicable diseases the Health Department tracks.

Spivey said there were 153 cases of COVID-19 reported since the board last met in May, which was 560 fewer cases reported compared to the previous month.

Spivey said Health Department officials also administered 655 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, which was about one-quarter of vaccinations administered in the previous month.

Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Matt Radocy said the Health Department scaled back its COVID-19 vaccination clinics and now holds a clinic one time a week in each county. He said the Health Department is also focused on holding pop-up vaccination clinics throughout the community and will attend the Alpena Farmers Market on July 10 for a pop-up event.

Because the board is returning to in-person meetings, the Health Board approved its meeting rotation for the remainder of the year. The District No. 4 Health Board meets are scheduled for 10 a.m. on the third Tuesday of every month.

The Health Board’s July meeting will be held in Cheboygan County, its August meeting in Montmorency County, its September meeting in Presque Isle County, its October meeting in Alpena, its November meeting in Cheboygan, and its December meeting in Montmorency County.

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