06-18-2020 Watervliet Township Hall to open to public June 22; plan OK’d for truck stop: Open for B

GREEN AND GOLD AWARD…Brenna Prescott (left) is presented the Green and Gold Award by Coloma High School Principal Mike Churchill at the drive-in style graduation ceremony held Friday night, June 12, 2020. She is the daughter of Amanda Prescott and was involved in Student Council, National Honor Society, tennis and the yearbook. Her future plans are to attend the University of Michigan to study investigative journalism. The annual award is given to a graduating senior who signifies excellence in leadership, industry, citizenship, and personality in the student’s four-year performance. (Contributed photo)

Berrien County Health Officer preaches risk reduction in no baseball games vs. packed beaches

By Annette Christie

On Friday, June 12, 2020, Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten and Spectrum Hospital Lakeland CEO Loren Hamel provided an update on COVID-19 in Berrien County. Britten commented on the time that has passed noting here we are in the middle of June, and they have been doing this since around the middle of March.

Britten commented that there is a lot happening in our community and commented that they often hear the question as to why people can pack the beach, yet not have baseball games. Hamel added that there is a lot of misinformation and miscommunication and acknowledged that some people aren’t being careful. Some stores you go in for example everyone has a mask on and the next store you may go in no one does.

Britten suggested that the continued restrictions on events such as sporting events are part of the risk reduction strategy. “We will never eliminate the transmission of COVID-19 it will be here for quite a while,” Britten said.

Hamel added that “fingers to face” is a really important thing to think is still a problem adding that close proximity to others does make a difference. Britten tried to explain that droplets from when a person speaks or coughs are heavy and so we are still facing the problem of when you touch a surface that a droplet has fallen on and then touch the face. “You don’t want to be in someone’s spray zone,” Britten said. The social distancing guideline of six feet between the number of people is risk reduction.

Britten and Hamel who were sitting at a table six feet from each other showed that example. “Everyone you have been in contact with the past two weeks, and now you and I are in contact, so if we were closer than six feet apart, you are exposing me to those other people indirectly.” Britten explained, adding “As we re-engage in our social life, think through how big do you want your circle to be.”

Both Hamel and Britten acknowledged there is a decrease in those affected and that there are not as many people in the hospital. While they had been expecting to see an increase, they haven’t seen that show up in the data yet. Britten said, “We are still seeing new confirmed cases every day but not nearly as many as before.”

Hospital visitors will now be allowed back to see patients with restrictions to the number of hours and the number of people. They hope to have that lessened up in time and data. Hamel said, “Family members are an important part of the care team.”

As to the expectation for ending the wearing of masks in public spaces, Britten said the data has been trending. Hamel added, “We are doing that still, watching the science, watching the risk, watching behaviors, don’t know if we will be wearing them the rest of our lives, no, but for a little while longer. We need to protect the most vulnerable.”

Overall Berrien County has seen less than 700 positive cases in the county and fewer than 60 deaths. Both Hamel and Britten said that they were bracing for it to be much worse. Hamel added solemnly that even one soul is too many and stated, “I would wear my mask for another year if it saved one.”

As of June 12, 2020 at 2:00 p.m., the overall number of new cases was decreasing. There were 21 new cases this week vs. 35 new cases last week. The percent of positivity for testing was also declining. There have not been any outbreaks in long term care or other facilities this week.

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