Coronavirus - web only

ST. JOSEPH — COVID-19 hospitalizations at Spectrum Health Lakeland have risen fourfold over the last month, hospital officials reported Wednesday, Aug. 25.

“We’ve been here before. We were here in November and April. We’re at a steep increase in cases and expect an increase in hospitalizations over the next few weeks,” Dr. Loren Hamel, president of Spectrum Health Lakeland, said during a Facebook Live update.

Hospitalizations often lag behind a rise in new cases, and deaths often lag behind hospitalizations.

Hamel said the hospital is treating about 16 people that are sick with COVID-19.

Spectrum Health Lakeland reported having 21 COVID-positive patients admitted Wednesday morning. That includes the 16 sick patients, and those that are positive and are being treated for something else.

The hospital system hasn’t reported more than 20 COVID patients admitted in a day since May 20, as the county was coming down from the April wave.

The hospital had 15 COVID patients admitted last Wednesday and 11 COVID patients admitted the Wednesday before.

“It’s a younger population and they’re almost entirely the unvaccinated,” Hamel said. “The protection the vaccine offers will lower your risk for hospitalization and death.”

He said very few of those that have been vaccinated get sick enough to need admittance to the hospital.

As of Monday, Berrien County had about 55.6 percent of its residents (12 and up) with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 51.3 percent fully vaccinated, according to state data.

Dr. Rex Cabaltica, medical director for the Berrien County Health Department, said during the Facebook update that Berrien County continues to see a steep rise in the number of new COVID-19 cases.

The county’s percent positivity has been at an average of 11.5 percent over the last seven days, and the county has gained about 145 cases per 100,000 residents over the last seven days.

“Why are we back in this situation? It’s primarily the delta variant, which is about twice as infectious, as well as relaxing of a lot of the mitigation efforts we had before, like masking, and a more relaxed attitude,” Cabaltica said. “We all thought we were out of this, but we’re seeing that even with the rise of vaccinations, we’re not quite out of the woods.”

He said the BCHD is ramping up its contact tracing efforts and is working to help get the community through this new wave.

“We need our community to answer the questions of the contact tracers because that will help us flatten the curve once more,” Cabaltica said.

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