04-09-2020 They are at risk is COVID press conference warning “maintain social distance”; COVID-19

Lakeland encourages community to Stay Home, Stay Safe In an effort to promote continued social distancing, and provide encouragement to frontline healthcare workers, Spectrum Health Lakeland is launching a “We Stay Home For You” campaign on social media. Community members are encouraged to create a “We Stay Home For You” sign and submit a photo of themselves holding it in front of their homes in response to the popular “We Stay Here For You, Please Stay Home for Us” social media campaign started by healthcare workers nationwide. In addition to submitting photos by tagging Spectrum Health Lakeland on social media or emailing them to info@lakelandhealth.org, residents in Watervliet can sign up to be part of a video which will be filmed from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 10 in Watervliet. Community members who are interested in being part of the video should visit spectrumhealthlakeland.org/westayhome to sign up. Residents will receive a call to come outside holding their sign. Participants should ensure signs are large enough to be seen from a distance.

They are at risk is COVID press conference warning “maintain social distance”

By Annette Christie

The overwhelming message given at a Wednesday afternoon April 8 press conference was that everyone in Berrien County, no matter where anyone lives, should maintain social distance and assume that they are at risk if they are around people. Berrien County Health Department Health Officer Nicki Britten reminded viewers that their goal and what officials are all doing, is working to try and save lives and make sure that any infection results in as few other infections as possible. “We are trying to keep the peak low enough that it falls within the health capacity of our hospital,” Britten said.

Britten said that as of Tuesday, April 7 there were 64 confirmed cases and two fatalities in Berrien County. She was pleased to report 33 of those cases have made it through the isolation timeframe and have recovered. State-wide there are over 19,000 cases and 900 deaths.

Britten noted that one of the teams at the Health Department is working on contact tracing. They are making contact with all confirmed cases and everyone they may have been in contact with and so on down the chain. “We are trying to notify as many as possible,” Britten said. To date they have made contact with over 1,200 people that may have been connected to a contact; however, that is not even the true picture. She said it was important to not look at the numbers without realizing that the confirmed-cases number is one small picture of the COVID-19 representation in our community. “Everyone should assume there is risk in any close contact that is not in their household,” Britten said.

Spectrum Health Lakeland President Dr. Loren Hamel stated that Lakeland has had 30 hospitalized, but also echoed Britten’s comment that we have a lot more cases than what is being reported. “We know there is more in the community,” Hamel said. There are still seven in the hospital and one in ICU. Lakeland has sent home about twenty-three patients.

Hamel said that if an individual has to interact with healthcare, they should expect it to be different. People that need COVID-19 testing must have a doctor’s order. Hamel confirmed that the tests are still in short supply. The test results are being turned around in 24 hours and they are working and improving that time to about an hour or two.

Hamel said if you need to be hospitalized, they are putting masks on all caregivers and all patients coming into the facility. Hamel said that following the Governor’s orders they like everyone else are severely restricting visitors because they also introduce additional risk. If someone is having a baby or if the patient is a child who needs a parent, then the hospital will accommodate to the best they can. All elective and non urgent surgeries have been canceled.

Hamel added that in the last 10 cases just in, five were out of Benton Harbor, and the remainders were from St. Joseph, Berrien Springs, Coloma and Watervliet, pointing out that it is wide-spread.

Undersheriff Chuck Heit reminded viewers that they will take enforcement efforts if necessary. He said that being outside is OK but people still need to practice social distancing, six feet away from each other. If people don’t cooperate than places like beaches where people can walk, will be closed down. The question was raised about out of state residents that may also have a second home here. Heit said the order allows that to happen but once here at their second home, out of staters have to abide by the order in place.


Given multiple recent COVID-19 cases associated with in-person funerals in Berrien County, the Health Department urged families who ha