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 have experienced a family death to plan a live streamed funeral so people can attend remotely. This is a solution that allows for the closest immediate family members at the funeral service in person, while keeping that gathering to fewer than 10 people, while other people participate from home. Live chat can be included for anyone who may not have a webcam at home but still wants to be actively involved in the funeral service. Multimedia offerings can be provided to remote attendees, including the funeral program, written eulogy, and family photos and videos. Many funeral homes in Berrien County have already started to implement these remote viewing alternatives.

Religious services

With many religious commemorations around the corner, the Berrien County Health Department would like to remind residents to stay committed to social distancing and avoid in-person gatherings. “While the way we celebrate traditions may be different this year, know that you are not alone,” said Britten. “This is a challenging time and while we come from many different backgrounds, faiths and walks of life, we are uniquely bonded by this shared experience. One of the most loving things we can do for one another is to stay home.”

Knowing that COVID-19 can spread even before there are symptoms of illness, it is so important to avoid any traditions that include family and friends or other people that do not live in the same household. These events include gathering for special worship services, Easter egg hunts, Passover meals, or other events.

There are many ways to stay safe in worship during the COVID-19 pandemic: Check your place of worship’s webpage and social media for virtual services. Celebrate with family via video chat. Cook traditional foods at home to enjoy the familiar tastes and smells of the holiday. Consider a smaller celebration with your immediate family now, and hold a larger celebration when the pandemic is over.

If setting up a remote worship, make sure to communicate to the community on how to get connected. Both Facebook and YouTube have options called “Premiere” that will allow houses of worship to pre-record, load and schedule a video of a service to start at a certain time.

PURPLE JUST LIKE BARNEY… Young Maci Rae Rosen has yet another fundraising weapon in her battle with juvenile neuroblastoma since parents, Lindsey (Drake) and Justen Rosen, connected with Kylies Kolors who turned Maci’s love for Barney into a special shade of nail polish named “Miracle Maci”. Currently sold out online, it may be exclusively purchased via kylieskolors.com with all profits going to the Rosen family to defer the costs of Maci’s treatment. Kylies Kolors is a non-profit in memory of Kylie Elizabeth dedicated to the cause of juvenile neuroblastoma. Maci was diagnosed on Aug. 10, 2019 with stage 4-high risk Neuroblastoma at 21 months old. She has since undergone five rounds of chemotherapy, four surgeries, two rounds of high dose chemo, two stem cell transplants and she is in the process 12 rounds of radiation. Her cancer has responded well to treatment thus far as we all wish nothing but complete remission for this strong and brave young lady.

COVID-19 update: More government action

By Jon Bisnett The COVID-19 outbreak continues to top the news, invading every aspect of our lives. Here are the latest points of interest. Worldwide The Summer Olympics are officially postponed to July 23, 2021, and the Tour de France plans to run, but without spectators. League sporting events and motorsports around the world are canceled or on hold.

Washington President Trump signed the Coronavirus Relief Bill on Friday, March 27. The one-time direct payments of $1,200 per adult plus $500 payments per child under 17 will be made via direct deposit to the bank account used for 2018 tax filing on or about April 17 per the Office of Treasury. Otherwise checks will be mailed. The White House further extended social distancing guidelines and travel restrictions through April 30; a full month longer than the 15-day timeline first put in place March 16.

Michigan education Governor Gretchen Whitmer released Executive Order 2020-35 on April 2, ending the school year for all Michigan schools. As was anticipated by education insiders; seniors will graduate, students K-11 will advance and Michigan’s third-grade reading law will be exempted this year among many points included in the 17-page directive from Lansing. Local school superintendents all agree that their hands were essentially tied until the state provided the protocol. Now they are working diligently with their administrative staff and teachers to hammer out an individualized plan for their district to fit the criteria released by the state. The devil is in the details of addressing subchapters such as student wellness, Special Education, ESL students, teacher interaction and many more very specific areas of the plan which must be addressed.

All school leaders totally agree that a “one size fits all” solution is simply not possible in light of the economic disparity of our local students exacerbated by the rural households that are largely unserved with access to the Internet. It is important to understand that the district’s plan must be completed and submitted to the Intermediate School District for approval. Nothing that has been heard from someone, including even school personnel is absolutely for sure until that approval is earned. Graduating seniors All Tri-City schools empathize with the Class of 2020 and their families and promise to sort this all out as soon as possible. Although perhaps delayed, give the seniors a proper celebration of their accomplishments, once it is safe to do so. Budgetary concerns Governor Whitmer made it quite clear that the responsibility falls upon the local school districts to pay for all costs associated with the modified learning system, while stating that current state school funding would continue, waving many legal obstacles that might otherwise disqualify access to those payments under the closure. Approximately 70% of a public-school budget is payroll. That will not change. Of the 30% that remains, savings are minimal with students and staff absent from the building. There are some utility savings, but buses are still running with meals. Teachers and staff, including hourly employees in the Tri-Cities, were already being paid by their respective districts prior to Whitmer’s order. School meals Under the most recent order, school meals will be extended to June 9. Our Tri-City schools continue to get meals into the hands of displaced students during the shutdown with roughly 15,000 each week in Hartford, 15,000 total in Watervliet, and Coloma has served over 10,000 meals.

More cancellations & closures While gas prices plummet as low as $.99 a gallon reported in South Haven, no one has any place to go anyway as more cancellations join the list in the last week. Opening day of Major League Baseball came and went with empty ballparks. The Indianapolis 500 will not run. The 2020 North American International Auto Show was canceled, with Detroit’s Cobo Hall undergoing conversion to a temporary field hospital, as is Chicago’s McCormick Place. Locally, Four Winds Casino Resorts has revised their timetable to “Indefinitely Closed,” as have many national entertainment venues and theme parks. The Hartford Strawberry Run, Strawberry Festival, Blossomtime Pageant and Grand Floral Parade have now canceled for 2020. St. Joe Today’s BBQ, Blues & Bluegrass, scheduled for Saturday, May 16 has moved to October 3. Antiques on the Bluff scheduled on Sunday, May 3 is canceled. The Krasl Art Fair is still on for July and closely monitoring developments at this point. Midwest Family Broadcasting officials express similar concerns as does the St. Joe Symphony as to concerts scheduled at Silver Beach Park. The Memorial Day Lane Automotive Car Show is now canceled. Tim and Leah Dibble are crossing their fingers for at least an abbreviated race season at Hartford Speedway. Organizers of both the Watervliet’s 4th of July Celebration and Coloma’s Glad-Peach Festival are expressing guarded optimism at this time, while Tri-City youth summer baseball, softball and soccer leagues remain hopeful that a delayed start may still be viable. South Haven had already nixed Light Up the Lake due to high lake levels, with Riverfest and the National Blueberry Festival still on, but in question.

Municipalities Local government offices continue to maintain a limited-contact office policy and are offering drop box or online utility payments. Please call before visiting. Open Meetings Act Following a request by the Michigan Municipal League, Governor Whitmer issued an executive order giving local units of government the ability to conduct public meetings through remote access technology, including conference calling, real-time streaming, or other platforms. Local governments are now dialing in to technology to hold their regular meetings. Hagar Township Zoomed a virtual conference as an emergency board meeting on Tuesday the 31st of March as did the Berrien County Commissioners later that same week.

Public Water Utilities Governor Whitmer has issued a moratorium on the practice of shutting off water in homes with unpaid bills. The order also requires already disconnected homes to be safely reconnected to water. Check with your local municipality for details if you qualify. Stay the course Continue to follow the recommended best practices to slow the outbreak: Wash hands often, cough into your elbow, avoid touching face. Keep that 6-foot distancing from others and stay home if you are able. Take your cues from bona-fide news sources including the Governor’s Office, local Health Departments, Public Safety and Municipal Offices. The Tri-City Record renews our pledge to make every effort to provide accurate COVID-19 updates as they occur. Be sure to “Follow Us on Facebook” for interim developments.

SERENADING OUR HEALTHCARE WORKERS… Watervliet Fire Department and North Berrien Fire Rescue joined forces to serenade Spectrum-Lakeland Watervliet workers with a parade of more than a dozen different emergency vehicles on Saturday. With lights flashing and horns honking, the emergency responders circled the hospital in fire engines (new and vintage), ambulances and police cruisers, then gathered at the front where – from a safe social distance – they applauded and thanked the hospital workers who could take a moment to gather at the front. The song “I’m Proud to Be an American” was also played in their honor. Spectrum-Lakeland employees waved their appreciation at the gesture and Watervliet Fire Chief Dan Jones led everyone in applause for the employees and thanked them on behalf of the community. Then, everyone got back to work, saving lives. (TCR photos by Teresa Smithers)


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