Berrien County officials alarmed by continued surge in COVID-19 cases

NOW: Berrien County officials alarmed by continued surge in COVID-19 cases

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Berrien County officials have announced the closure of public access to all county buildings starting Monday.

The county issued the notice as the surge in COVID-19 cases continues to show no signs of stopping.

Plus, county officials will meet next week to consider re-issuing a state of emergency.

“If there is a state of emergency declaration it will help provide additional services to law enforcement, our health department and then improve communication flow,” said Brian Dissette, Berrien County Administrator.

Since October, case counts have been doubling every two weeks – at 100 new cases a day – forcing the Berrien County Health Department to shift its contact tracing efforts to those most vulnerable.

A new app rolled out by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services now allows anyone to send a notification if they’ve contracted the virus or been exposed, as well as receive an alert themselves if one of their close contacts tests positive. 

“Our team is unable to keep up with the contact tracing at the level that we had done before, there is a shift and this is happening throughout the state to making sure that all positive cases know they’re positive,” said Health Officer Nicki Britten during a Facebook Live press conference Friday with the Berrien County Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland.

And the fear as we head into Thanksgiving is that the situation will only get worse if people don’t make changes to their gathering plans.

"Spend Thanksgiving with your household members, initiatively and virtually engage your family that you don’t live with," said Britten. "We are 13 days before Thanksgiving, this graph could look dramatically different right when families are all starting to gather."

Residents are urged to use the app and continue following safety guidelines or else the county will find itself in dire circumstances in just a few weeks.

“We have enough PPE – masks, gowns and hand sanitizer – the short supply is staff,” said Dr. Loren Hamel, President of Spectrum Health Lakeland. “This is what we’ve been worried about, warning about, and trying to prevent this whole time.”

The MI COVID Alert app is free to use and its developers promise any information put in is confidential.


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