BENTON TOWNSHIP — Berrien County health officials said Friday, Dec. 11, there was some good news in the COVID-19 data this week.
“We were on a trajectory for this to be a particularly ugly week, and it has slowed down. I’m grateful for that, but we’re still standing on the edge of the cliff looking down,” Nicki Britten, health officer for the Berrien County Health Department (BCHD), said in a Facebook Live event.
She said there is still potential for the third wave to keep going if transmission continues, but it’s still too soon to tell with a decrease in COVID testing around the state.
“In light of less testing, we are seeing fewer cases. We know that testing wasn’t driving the increase, so it’s really hard to say what’s going on,” Britten said.
Berrien County recorded 742 new COVID-19 cases this week. That’s compared to 800 last week, 1,124 the week before and 1,066 the week before that.
The county also recorded 648 new recoveries this week. That’s a huge jump from the 389 recorded last week, and the 295 recorded the week before that. This is a sign that it’s been about 30 days since a huge spike in cases, as recoveries are defined as those who are alive 30 days after a COVID diagnosis.
Berrien County’s death trend did rise this week, with 11 additional deaths being reported. Last week seven deaths were reported and the week before, nine. This is when an increase in deaths were expected, as deaths lag behind diagnosis and hospitalization.
Active cases in the county are at about 3,952. That’s compared to 3,869 last Friday.
Average COVID hospitalizations at Spectrum Health Lakeland rose only slightly this week to 65, from 63 last week. There were 69 patients admitted Friday morning. That’s the same as last Friday.
Dr. Loren Hamel, president of Spectrum Health Lakeland, said Friday he is encouraged by this steady trend and that the hospital has modified its projection for a surge, from up to 120 patients, down to about 90 patients.
“I think that shows people are trying to do their best to be careful and that is paying off,” he said. “It’s helping to prevent an intolerable surge. But we’re full and hanging on.”
In total, since March, Berrien County has recorded 7,633 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 3,554 recoveries, 127 deaths and 570 presumed cases. That’s an addition of 29 presumed cases since last Friday.
Hamel reported that Spectrum Health is now poised to receive about 4,500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the first shipment expected sometime next week.
He said estimates had been as high as about 30,000 and as low as 995.
“At least that’s a good start on immunizing some of our most vulnerable,” Hamel said. “Obviously with that comes sending enough vaccine three weeks later to give those folks their second dose.”
The BCHD and Lakeland are working closely on coordinating their efforts.
The county is still expecting to vaccinate health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities first. This first phase of vaccinations might take through February, Britten said.
Van Buren County’s COVID-19 case numbers began to drop this week as well, though it had another big week for deaths.
The county recorded nine COVID-19 deaths this week, bringing the county’s death toll to 57. The previous week the county had recorded eight deaths, and the week before that 10.
Van Buren County recorded 360 new COVID-19 cases this week, compared to 423 last week and 444 the week before that. In total, the county has recorded 3,359 cases.
Cass County recorded five deaths this week. The last two weeks it had only recorded one each week. The county’s death toll is now at 35.
Cass County recorded 268 COVID-19 cases this week, keeping with its trend for the last two weeks. Last week it recorded 252 new cases and the week before that 262. In total, Cass County has recorded 2,484 cases.
The Van Buren Cass District Health Department has discontinued providing the number of COVID-19 recoveries it has in the two counties.
For more information, the health department’s weekly COVID video update with its medical director is available on its website, vbcassdhd.org/covid-19.