ST. JOSEPH — Berrien County commissioners on June 9 approved naming Guy Miller as the county’s health officer.

Miller was named the acting health officer in November of 2021 for six months after the previous officer, Courtney Davis, announced she was stepping down.

Administrator Brian Dissette told commissioners Miller’s appointment as the health officer is contingent on state approval.

Miller was hired as an epidemiologist in 2015.

According to the resolution, county staff interviewed several people for the health officer position and Miller was ultimately recommended to fill the position permanently. His salary will be $107,236.

Before the vote, Miller gave commissioners an update on the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said over the past few weeks, they’ve noticed a rising number of positive cases, but not a lot of people needing to be hospitalized.

“We’ve been seeing about eight or nine cases of COVID-19 positives in the hospital,” he said. “The hospital system is not by any means overwhelmed. I think a lot of this is the impact that the vaccine and the pharmaceutical interventions that have been made to decrease the severity of the illness.”

Miller said in May, 777 positive cases were reported, up from 417 in April. In January, he said 7,500 positive cases were reported.

He said the county’s vaccination rates are high, with the health department continuing to give vaccinations on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Benton Township and by appointment in the Niles office on Thursdays.

In addition, Miller said the health department continues to offer water filters to Benton Harbor residents to filter lead out of the water.

He said contractors are 55 percent done replacing the lead water service lines in the city.

“They’re a little bit ahead of schedule,” he said.

Baby formula

Miller said the health department, like much of the nation, is having problems finding baby formula to serve its clients in the WIC program.

“It just hasn’t been available,” he said. “If the supplier is not creating it and we don’t have infant formula available, we can’t provide infant formula. I know the stores have been struggling to find it as well.”

Abbott Laboratories voluntarily recalled powder formulas manufactured at its Sturgis plant on Feb. 17 and later shut the plant down due to claims that the formula made some infants sick. Abbott reported that tests at the plant by themselves and the Federal Drug Administration did not find the bacteria that made the infants sick.

Last week, Abbott announced it was reopening the plant.

Auto reform

Commissioners also approved, without comment, a resolution urging Michigan legislators to amend the Michigan No-Fault Auto Insurance Reform.

The resolution states that while the fee cap took effect July 1, 2021, it is being applied retroactively, meaning that Michigan auto insurance companies are paying 45 percent less to home health care providers than what they were paying in January 2019.

This is reducing benefits to residents who were catastrophically injured before 2019.

The resolution urges legislators to amend the law “to address a sustainable reimbursement cap based on existing government payers (Medicaid, Veterans Affairs, etc.) for residential care facilities and home health providers, and families regardless of number of hours worked, who provide medically necessary care to auto accident victims.”

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