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A Positive Decline

Washtenaw's Covid cases are on the wane

by Trilby MacDonald

Published in August, 2020

Washtenaw County continues its downward trend in the number of Covid-19 cases, in contrast to the rapid climb across much of the state. The health department's Susan Ringler-Cerniglia believes Southeast Michigan's ordeal early in the pandemic may be a factor: "We are more likely to know someone who has gotten the virus and we are more cautious as a result." Apart from a sharp spike in the number of cases after the 4th of July weekend, Ringler-Cerniglia is encouraged by the county's declining numbers. But the politicization of the issue has made it more challenging for the County Health Department to keep the public informed.

The County Health Department puts a large amount of data on its website about the spread of the virus, including the number of cases, mortality rate, demographics, and cases by zip code. "One of the problems is we have so much data and not enough data," says Ringler-Cirniglia. "We have so many ways to track and look at the data but It's not like we can compare it to another season." The overwhelming majority of county residents are supportive of the Health Department's efforts to educate the public about the virus, but Ringler-Cirniglia is dismayed by the degree to which the issue has been politicized. "The constant questioning of the guidance leaves people confused," she says.

Watching public health research unfold in real time is confusing under any circumstances, with guidance changing as new data comes to light. But she hopes the public will give public health agencies the benefit of the doubt. "There's been tremendous work to provide good and reliable information but It's hard for us to be clear about what we know when that information is complex because things about the virus are evolving. Public health is not a black and white field. There's a lot of gray and that gray is being questioned as if we have ulterior motives."     (end of article)

[Originally published in August, 2020.]


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