07-30-2020 Berrien County Health Department provides COVID-19 update, understanding risk much bett






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Berrien County Health Department provides COVID-19 update, understanding risk much better as patient numbers stablize

By Annette Christie Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten and Spectrum Health Lakeland CEO Dr. Loren Hamel provided an update on where COVID-19 stands in Berrien County on Monday afternoon. Britten said while we are seeing some numbers go up in the number of cases, 1,056 confirmed cases of COVID–19, it is not the whole picture. The percent of positive tests is less than 4% and that is the threshold. “We are feeling good about that number,” Britten said. Hamel added that at the hospital they got as low as zero in terms of admissions but now those numbers are more like 10-16 this week. Britten did note though that some of the admissions numbers are because of cases in Cass County for admissions that have driven up the numbers. There is a decrease in the mortality risks it appears. Britten noted there was a four-week period where there were no deaths. In the last two weeks, there were three; the individuals were in higher risk categories. There are not any new populations showing up in the death data; however, they are seeing COVID in younger people – adults under 50 – driving up the number. The average age through May 31 was 54, the month of June average was 41, followed by 40 in July. Britten, who is active at the state level with the school re-opening plans, said she doesn’t know how much transmission we will see in schools. Unlike influenza, children are not as infectious and spreading with COVID. She said there is lots of guidance, very robust safety practices that will be put in place to help minimize the spread in schools. Hamel noted we have to remember that there are a lot of adults in the schools also. The Health Dept. is working with public and private school leaders’ return to school road map and how to implement that. Britten said that for the most part, the schools want consistency amongst the communities. Britten seemed positive in stating that we understand the risk much better. “We’ve learned so much, the smaller role that children and asymptomatic individuals do play in transmission,” Britten said. Hamel said that less tight visitor restrictions with the hospital will be gradually put in place. “Safely and carefully, with the transmission in hospitals, we can control that risk very well,” Hamel said, adding, “Most of the caregivers were not getting sick. If we are careful and diligent, maintain hand washing, masks, and social distancing we can control this,” Hamel said. Everyone is interested in tests. The turnaround for the testing has been 4,000 tests in a day with results in a day or two. But as things ramp up, school, vacation, etc., they have to limit the testing of the people in the hospital for the ones needing medical care. Hamel said, “We are keeping up for now. We anticipate the supplies will be worse further in the summer as more states are going backwards.” Hamel spoke to the anxiety is very real, and those who may have been in contact with someone who tests positive should continue with social isolation. “When I go to a store, I assume that I have to protect myself and someone in there may have COVID,” Hamel said, adding, “Cleaning the surfaces, and keeping up with practices, people being careful aren’t getting infected.” Both Britten and Hamel stated that the public needs to continue to follow the rules, hand washing, mask wearing, and social distancing are the best defense. “Don’t let your guard down, if we are doing all the right things, we are preventing new cases,” Britten said. Britten noted that there have been a lot of folks expressing concern on overcrowding on the beaches but she stressed that she is working with them (beach operators) to operate in a safe way. While outside is better than inside, Hamel reminded listeners to the press conference that the vulnerable have to be the most careful. Risk is too high and they should be so careful. For more information on the coronavirus pandemic response in Berrien County, visit www.bchdmi.org/COVID19 or www.spectrumhealthlakeland.org/COVID-19.