First Omicron case detected in Cass County

CASS COUNTY, Mich. — The Omicron variant has now emerged in Southwest Michigan with Cass County announcing its first positive case.

“We likely already had Omicron in the area but we just don't know it because not all tests are sent for sequencing,” said Danielle Persky, Health Officer at the Van Buren-Cass District Health Department.

It's a smaller region – with a population of only about 50,000 – but the case counts are high. 

They're at a 25 percent positivity rate, while only 43 percent of residents are fully immunized. 

“Vaccination rates certainly are a slow climb in Cass County, anecdotally, what we're finding is people are more apt to getting vaccinated when they've had a personal experience with COVID,” said Persky.

The health department has even called in the National Guard to set up two testing sites – one in Dowagiac and the other in Bangor.

“Already we were a county that did not have a lot of testing sites available, but when you're talking about a new variant it became more obvious,” said Persky. “They've now been averaging 150 people a day coming though those test sites.” 

While catching COVID puts a damper in plans and right now there are long wait times and scarcity of at-home kits, Cass County officials say stick it out and if you can't get get a test right away, the wait actually may be more worthwhile. 

“It's important if you've been exposed to wait at least 48 hours before getting a test, because there's a likelihood you could test too soon, so in some ways, even though there's a wait for testing you don't have to worry about that,” said Persky. 

The Van Buren-Cass Health Department is working with the Berrien County Health Department on a project to address and overcome COVID vaccine hesitancy.

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