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NEWS | Sept. 4, 2020

Michigan Guard conducts free COVID tests on Mackinac Island

By Staff Sgt. Tegan Kucera Michigan National Guard

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. – Mackinac Island is untouched by cars and untouched by COVID-19, and would like to keep it that way.

On Aug. 26, the Michigan National Guard was at Mackinac Island providing free walk-thru COVID-19 tests for residents and seasonal workers.

“We are here to COVID-test for the staff on the island. This will be our fourth time here in the last couple of months,” said Bobbi Ayotte of the LMAS District Health Department. “Mackinac Island is part of our Mackinac County, so we want to work here with our staff to make sure that it is safe.”

The LMAS District Health Department covers Luce, Mackinac, Alger, and Schoolcraft counties. After three testing events, the island has yet to have a case, and Ayotte says they would like to keep it that way. One way to assess risk is by continuing to conduct widespread testing.

“It reassures everyone that they are doing their part on the island to keep everyone safe,” said Ayotte.

Mackinac Island did not open up at the beginning of the tourism season. Public health officials on the island wanted to make sure they had all the proper procedures in place so the virus did not reach their shores. Even after it has been open a couple of months, they are continuing to test to ensure those safety measures are still holding.

“This helps us do better planning and assessment of the state of the pandemic on the island,” said Mike Kasper, the professional emergency manager coordinator for Mackinac County. “We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect the tourism and the residents of the island.”

Mackinac Island is home to 500 year-round residents and, during the summer, almost 500 seasonal workers.

“The most important thing is the collaborative effort between the National Guard and the local agencies,” said Kasper. “We’re very fortunate to have a good working relationship.”

Besides holding many events on the island, the LMAS District Health Department has worked with the National Guard in other parts of Mackinac County and in all the other counties it represents.

“We improve, every time we encounter each other, we learn from each other, and every job we do gets better,” said Sgt. Hiram Lopez, a medic and radiology technician with the Michigan National Guard’s Task Force 182.

Testing on Mackinac Island is different for the National Guard than in other places around the state. Only emergency vehicles are allowed, so walk-through testing replaces drive-through events.

The main transportation methods on the island are horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and walking. So, Soldiers had to carry all their supplies to the testing location from a lakeside dock, because the only way to get to the island is by ferry.

“It’s turning into a great partnership. We’re getting to know one another, and most of us have worked with the National Guard,” said Ayotte. “Building that bond and those partnerships is what you want in a pandemic.”



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