MI health officials watching IN COVID-19 uptick closely

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- For the first time since the pandemic started, Indiana has surpassed Michigan in COVID-19 cases.

Health officials in Berrien and Cass counties have been following trends in Indiana and say while Michigan’s numbers are relatively steady, they’re watching the surge in cases just over the state line very closely.

“It’s really important that we, as a border county with Indiana, are looking not only at what’s happening in the rest of the state of Michigan but also what’s happening in counties in Northern Indiana,” said Gillian Conrad, Communications Manager for the Berrien County Health Department.

Conrad said Berrien County has seen just a slight uptick in numbers, reporting only 2,002 cases throughout the pandemic.

But more concerning over in Cass County, as the Cass/Van Buren District Health Department reports 20 percent of the area’s total COVID-19 cases have happened in just the past two weeks, bringing the total to 690.

In St. Joseph County, there were 131 new cases Thursday, while Elkhart County announced 152 people testing positive for the virus.

Plus – Indiana now exceeding Michigan in total cases at 141,212, with Michigan trailing at 141,091.

But, with the 2019 census reporting Indiana’s population to be 6 million, nearly 4 million less than Michigan’s almost 10 million, that’s the ratio that concerns officials here.

“An important factor to consider is the percent of positive tests in a state,” said Conrad. “Right now, Michigan has a percent right around four, but Indiana is greater, in some areas closer to 10 percent. Some of our neighboring counties in Northern Indiana are seeing surging rates of hospitalizations, we are not at a surge rate in Berrien County.”

Despite the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders in response to the pandemic, health officials do say masks, gathering limits and social distancing requirements – plus tight restrictions on reopening businesses – are the reason Michigan isn’t seeing overwhelming numbers today.

“We can see in other states, like Indiana, that opening up too quickly, loosening up restrictions too fast, did have an impact on the number of cases they saw,” said Conrad.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) has also now put into effect COVID-workplace guidelines previously issued under Gov. Whitmer’s orders. While requirements are essentially the same, you can find resources at: https://www.michigan.gov/leo/0,5863,7-336-100207---,00.html

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